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V' 


// 


HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

MILITARY   OPERATIONS 


\ 


MACMILLAN  AND  CO.,   Limited 

LONDON    •     BOMBAY    •    CALCUTTA    •     MADRAS 
MELBOURNE 

THE  MACMILLAN  COMPANY 

NEW    YORK    •     BOSTON    •    CHICAGO 
DALLAS    •    ATLANTA    •    SAN     FRANCISCO 

THE  MACMILLAN   COMPANY 
OF  CANADA,  LIMITED 

TORONTO 


5 

3 

a. 
o 

o 

05 


HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

BASED  ON  OFFICIAL  DOCUMENTS 

BY  DIRECTION  OF  THE   HISTORICAL  SECTION   OF  THE 
COMMITTEE  OF  IMPERIAL  DEFENCE 

MILITARY    OPERATIONS 

FRANCE  AND  BELGIUM,  19 14 

;jONS,    THE    RETREAT    TO    THE    SEINE,    THE    MARNE    AND    THE    AISNE 
AUGUST-OCTOBER    1914 


COMPILED    BY 

BRIGADIER-GENERAL  SIR  JAMES  E.  EDMONDS 

C.B.,  C.M.G.,   R.E.   (Retired),  p.s.c. 
MAPS    AND    SKETCHES    COMPILED    BY 

MAJOR  A.  F.  BECKE 

R.A.  (Retired),  Hon.  M.A.  (Oxon.) 


\  -   C^-    J 


s 


MACMILLAN    AND   CO.,    LIMITED 
ST.   MARTIN'S   STREET,   LONDON 

1937 


COPYRIGHT 

First  Edition  1922 

Second  Edition  1925 

Reprinted  1926,  1928 

Third  Edition  1933 

ReprirUed  1937 

V 
5  30 


PRINTED    IN   GRKAT    BRITAIN 
BY    R.    &     R.    CLARK,   LIMITED    EDINBDROH 


PREFACE 

Since  the  original  edition  was  compiled  in  1920-21,  the 
battlefields  of  1914  have  been  visited  by  many  parties  of 
British  officers,  and  much  interesting  information  has  been 
elicited  on  the  ground.  The  volumes  of  the  French  and 
German  official  histories  dealing  with  the  period,  besides 
numerous  regimental  histories,  French,  German  and  British, 
have  been  issued.^  It  was  therefore  thought  desirable  to 
carry  out  a  thorough  revision  of  the  text,  particularly  as 
the  portions  of  the  original  dealing  with  the  French  and 
German  forces  had  been  pieced  together  from  various  un- 
official books,  and  were  by  no  means  complete.  The  maps 
and  sketches  have  been  revised  accordingly,  and  some  new 
ones  added,  notably  a  layered  map  of  the  Marne  battlefield. 
No  such  revision  of  the  other  published  volumes  of  the 
history  will  be  necessary. 

The  opportunity  has  been  taken  to  give  in  greater 
detail  the  information  obtained  during  open  warfare  by  the 
Royal  Flying  Corps  ;  for  in  the  first  volume  of  the  official 
history  "  The  War  in  the  Air,"  the  late  Sir  Walter  Raleigh 
did  not  include  sufficient  for  the  purposes  of  military 
study.  Further  particulars  also  have  been  given  of  the 
destruction  of  bridges  during  the  retreat  :  the  work  of 
collecting  information  from  survivors  was  undertaken  by 
Major-General  Sir  Reginald  Buckland,  Chief  Engineer  of 
the  Fourth  Army  of  the  B.E.F.,  and  occupied  him  two 
years — which  gives  some  idea  of  the  labour  involved  in 
this  kind  of  work.  A  summary  of  his  investigations  was 
published  in  the  Journal  of  the  Royal  Engineers. 

J.  E.  E. 

August  1933. 

*  The  German  Warne  volume  in  1926,  the  French  Marne  volume  in 
1S33. 

V 


PKEFACE   TO   THE   FIKST   EDITION 

This  history  has  been  compiled  with  the  purpose  of  pro- 
viding within  reasonable  compass  an  authoritative  account, 
suitable  for  general  readers  and  for  students  at  military 
schools,  of  the  operations  of  the  British  Army  in  the 
Western  theatre  of  war  in  1914-1918.  It  is  based  on  the 
British  official  records. 

The  present  volume  covers  events  from  mobilization 
up  to  the  middle  of  October  1914  only,  a  period  of  two 
and  a  half  months,  and  is  on  a  scale  which  to  a  large 
extent  treats  the  battalion,  squadron  and  battery  records 
as  the  basis  of  the  story.  In  succeeding  volumes  it  will 
not  be  possible  or  desirable  to  adhere  to  this,  and  succes- 
sively the  brigade,  division  and  even  corps  may  become 
the  unit  of  narrative.  For  this  volume  the  scale  adopted 
seems  appropriate,  in  view  of  the  importance  of  small 
units  in  the  early  operations,  of  the  lessons  to  be  derived 
from  the  study  of  the  work  of  these  units  in  open  warfare, 
and  of  the  desirability  of  leaving  a  picture  of  what  war 
was  Hke  in  1914,  when  trained  soldiers  were  still  of  greater 
importance  than  material,  and  gas,  tanks,  long-range  guns, 
creeping  barrages  and  the  participation  of  aircraft  in 
ground  fighting  were  unknown. 

The  mass  of  documents  to  be  dealt  with  was  very 
great,  and  the  difficulty  has  been  not  in  obtaining  in- 
formation, but  in  compressing  and  cutting  down  what  was 
available.  The  British  records  comprise  not  only  the 
war  diaries  of  every  staff  and  unit  engaged,  with  their 
voluminous  appendices  containing  all  orders,  intelligence, 

vii 


viii  MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

etc.,  received  and  issued,  and  detailed  reports  of  actions, 
but  they  include  also  the  General  Headquarters  files,  the 
Commander-in-Chief's  diary,  and  practically  every  telegram 
and  message  despatched  and  received.  These  official 
documents  have  been  supplemented  by  private  diaries 
and  papers  which  have  been  kindly  lent,  by  regimental 
records,  and  by  interviews  with  officers  who  took  part  in 
the  operations. 

On  a  modern  battlefield,  however,  knowledge  of  events 
is  extraordinarily  local,  and  the  transmission  of  informa- 
tion difficult ;  in  addition  important  witnesses  only  too 
often  become  casualties.  Though  written  orders  and 
messages  are  absolutely  reliable  evidence  of  the  matters 
with  which  they  deal,  war  diaries  and  reports  of  actions, 
written  up  immediately  after  events,  are  liable  to  contain 
mistakes.  Commanders  and  staffs  are  naturally  more 
concerned  in  finding  out  and  reporting  the  exact  situation 
and  condition  of  their  troops  and  of  the  enemy,  in  sending 
up  reinforcements,  ammunition  and  supplies,  and  recording 
experience  for  future  use  than  in  the  collection  of  historical 
matter.  In  fact,  even  officers  well  known  to  be  specially 
interested  in  military  history  have  confessed  that  during 
the  war  the  idea  of  collecting  or  keeping  material  for  its 
future  historian  never  occurred  to  them.  Many  incidents 
deserving  of  record  may  therefore  have  escaped  notice. 
It  will  greatly  assist  in  the  compilation  of  monographs  or 
of  a  fuller  official  history  in  years  to  come,  if  readers  who 
can  supply  further  information  or  corrections  will  com- 
municate with  the  Secretary  of  the  Historical  Section, 
Committee  of  Imperial  Defence,  2  Whitehall  Gardens, 
London,  S.W.I. 

The  text  and  maps  now  presented  are  the  result  of  the 
co-operative  labours  of  the  staff,  past  and  present,  of  the 
Historical  Section,  Military  Branch,^  which,  in  collabora- 
tion with  the  Disposal  of  Records  Department,  War  Office, 
is  also  charged  with  the  sorting  and  arrangement  of  the 

1  Special  assistance  in  compiling  this  volume  has  been  rendered  by 
Major  A.  F.  Becke,  Major  F.  W.  Tomlinson,  Captain  G.  C.  Wynne  and 
Mr.  E.  A.  Dixon. 


PREFACE  TO  THE  FIRST  EDITION  jx 

records  dealing  with  operations  overseas.  This  latter  part 
of  its  work  absorbed  most  of  its  energy  and  time  until  well 
on  into  1921.  The  Branch  did  not  obtain  a  permanent 
home  until  October  1919  ;  thus  a  large  amount  of  im- 
portant material  did  not  become  available  until  it  was 
unpacked  and  sorted  after  this  date,  and  it  was  then  found 
necessary  to  re-write  an  account  of  the  initial  operations 
already  partly  drafted. 

The  British  Expeditionary  Force  in  France  in  1914 
was  not  acting  independently,  and  formed  only  a  small 
part  of  the  Allied  Armies  engaged  ;  it  has  therefore  been 
necessary  to  include  an  account  of  the  action  of  the  French 
and  Belgian  forces  sufficient  to  provide  a  proper  frame- 
work for  the  British  operations.  As  regards  the  Belgian 
Army,  ample  material  for  this  purpose  has  been  published 
by  the  Belgian  General  Staff.  The  French  General  Staff 
has  not  yet  issued  any  history,  but  much  information 
with  regard  to  the  French  plans  and  operations  has 
already  been  made  public  :  officially  in  the  reports  of 
Parliamentary  Enquiries,  semi-officially  by  historians  like 
M.  Hanotaux,  M.  Engerand,  M.  Madelin  and  General 
Palat  {Pierre  Lehautcourt),  and  in  the  form  of  reminiscences 
and  memoirs  by  actual  participants,  such  as  Generals 
Lanrezac,  Gallieni,  Dubail  and  Mangin.  It  was  not, 
therefore,  thought  necessary  to  trouble  the  French  General 
Staff  except  as  regards  the  incident  of  the  assistance 
rendered  by  General  Sordet's  Cavalry  Corps  at  the  battle 
of  Le  Cateau,  when  a  copy  of  the  war  diary  of  the  troops 
concerned  was  very  courteously  furnished.  With  this 
exception,  it  must  be  understood  that  for  the  French 
operations  the  only  absolutely  authoritative  statements 
quoted  are  the  orders,  instructions,  intelligence  reports, 
etc.,  received  officially  by  G.H.Q.  from  the  French  Grand 
Quartier  General. 

The  published  German  accounts  of  the  early  part  of 
the  war  are  very  numerous,  and  they  deal  both  with  the 
decisions  and  orders  of  the  higher  commanders  and  the 
operations  of  many  corps  and  even  smaller  fighting  units. 
The  most  notable  are  the  books  of  the  three  Army  com- 


X.    MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

manders,  von  Kluck,  von  Biilow  and  von  Hansen,  the 
General  Staff  monographs  "Liittich-Namur  "  and  "Mons," 
the  official  list  of  battles  and  engagements,  with  the 
names  of  the  formations,  etc.,  present,  entitled  "  Schlachten 
und  Gefechte,"  and  the  stories  of  participants  like  General 
von  Zwehl,  General  von  Kuhl,  Hauptmann  Bloem  (the 
novelist)  and  Hofprediger  Vogel.^  It  was  originally  in- 
tended to  give  the  accounts  derived  from  German  sources 
in  the  form  of  notes  at  the  end  of  each  Chapter ;  but,  after 
consideration,  it  was  decided  that  such  an  arrangement 
might  prove  inconvenient,  and  that  it  was  better  as  a 
general  rule  to  include  them  in  the  body  of  the  Chapters, 
as  close  as  possible  to  the  events  in  the  British  narra- 
tive to  which  they  refer.  This  arrangement,  in  view 
of  the  difference  of  the  character  of  the  material,  has 
naturally  caused  breaks  in  the  style  and  scope  of  the 
story,  but  it  makes  the  comparison  of  the  two  accounts 
easier. 

General  Freiherr  Mertz  von  Quirheim,  the  Director  of 
the  German  Reich sarchiv,  Berlin,  which  has  custody  of 
the  war  records,  has  been  good  enough  to  furnish  material 
in  order  to  clear  up  a  few  points  on  which  there  seemed 
insufficient  information. 

As  separate  histories  of  the  Royal  Air  Force  and  the 
Medical  Services  are  being  compiled,  a  detailed  account 
of  their  work  has  not  been  included  in  the  narrative. 

Two  sets  of  maps  have  been  prepared.  The  one, 
distinguished  by  the  word  "  Sketches,"  sufficient  for  the 
general  reader,  is  bound  in  the  volume  ;  the  other,  intended 
for  the  use  of  students  of  war,  is  issued  separately.  Except 
the  situation  maps  for  the  battle  of  the  Aisne,  which  are 
taken  from  the  originals,  the  maps  have  been  compiled 
from  data  and  sketches  in  the  war  diaries  or  furnished 
by  officers,  or  from  French  and  German  publications. 

The  typescript  or  proof  sheets  have  been  read  by  a 
number  of  commanders  and  staff  and  regimental  officers 
who  took  part  in  the  events  narrated,  and  the  compiler 
has  been  greatly  assisted  by  their  advice  and  criticism, 

1  See  List  of  Books,  pp.  xxv-xxix. 


PREFACE  TO  THE  FIRST  EDITION  xi 

for  which  he  tenders  them  his  most  sincere  thanks.  He 
is  specially  grateful  to  Mr.  C.  T.  Atkinson,  his  predecessor 
in  charge  of  the  Branch,  for  advice  and  help  at  all  times, 
■which  his  intimate  knowledge  of  the  records  made  most 
valuable ;  and  both  to  him  and  to  Mr.  W.  B.  Wood, 
the  partner  in  the  compilation  of  a  book  on  an  earlier 
war,  for  the  reading  and  correction  of  the  proof  sheets. 

J.  E.  E. 

April  1922. 


Issued  with  "  1918  "  Vol.  III. 


ADDENDUM  TO   "  1914  "  Vol.   I  (1933  Edition) 

Page  280,  penultimate  line.    After  '"  further  south  "  add  new  footnote  : 

"■  It  is  now  accepted  in  France  that  the  British  retirement 
on  the  night  of  the  4th/5th  September  was  in  accordance 
with  the  instructions  from  General  Joffre  in  force  at  the 
time  and  not  a  '  derobade  '.  See  '  Joffre  et  GalUeni  a  la 
Marne  ',  pp.  65-7,  by  Capitaine  P.  Lyet,  published  in  1938 
by  the  '  Service  Historique  '  of  the  French  General  Staff 
with  a  preface  by  General  Gamelin,  Chief  of  the  General  Staff 
of  National  Defence,  who  was  one  of  General  Joffre's  General 
Staff  officers  at  the  time  of  the  Battle  of  the  Marne  1914." 


ADDENDA  AND  CORRIGENDA 

over  to  France  to  be  '  butchered  by  Haig ',  while  Lord 
French  refused  to  agree  to  the  removal  of  a  single  man  from 
England.  '  Life  and  Letters  of  Lord  Wester- Wemyss,'  by 
Lady  Wester- Wemyss,  p.  375."  * 

Page  473,  footnote  2.     Add  : 

"General  Debeney  in  his  '  La  Guerre  et  les  hommes  ', 
p.  25,  says  the  French  sector  taken  over  by  General  Gough 
was  '  jeune  ',  and  continues,  '  ce  secteur  etant  moins  bien 
fortifie  .  .  .  toutes  les  "  jeunes  "  organisations  aussi  bien 
les  Allemandes  que  les  alliees  ont  saute  comme  bouchons  de 
champagne  sous  Teftort  des  materiels  de  1918  '." 

Page  493.     At  bottom  of  page  add  : 

"  German  Casualties. 
"  Colonel  and  Divisional  Commander  Bircher,  of  the  Swiss 
Army,  who  is  generally  well  informed  about  German  matters, 
states  in  his  '  Krieg  ohne  Gnade  ',  p.  207  :  '  Losses  of  the 
Germans  (21st  March  until  end  of  April)  in  the  Operation 
Michael, 

308,000  killed  and  wounded  '." 

Page  498.     VII.  Corps  table,  after  "11  Aus.  Brigades."  add : 

"  4th  AustraUan  Division  (Major- General  E.  G.  Sinclair- 
MacLagan)  : 

12  Aus.,  13  Aus.  Brigades. 
From  8  a.m.  29th  March  : 
15th  Australian  Brigade  (5th  Australian  Division)."" 

Page  499,  lines  12-14.  Delete  "  4th  Australian  Division  ...  13  Aus. 
Brigades."  and  substitute  "■  4th  Austrahan  Brigade  (4th 
Australian  Division)." 

Page  523,  paragraph  (c).  After  "  ammunition  supply."  add  in  parentheses: 
"  (The  four  batteries  of  12-inch  howitzers  on  railway  mount- 
ings were,  however,  kept  in  action  with  the  co-operation  of 
the  109th  Railway  Company  R.E.)  ". 


NOTES 

The  locations  of  troops  and  places  are  given  from  right  to 
left  of  the  front  of  the  Allied  Forces,  unless  otherwise 
stated.  Thus,  even  in  the  retreat  to  the  Seine  they  are 
described  from  east  to  west.  In  translations  of  German 
orders  they  are  left  as  in  the  original,  but  otherwise 
enemy  troops  are  enumerated  in  relation  to  the  British 
front. 

The  convention  observed  in  the  British  Expeditionary 
Force  is  followed  as  regards  the  distinguishing  numbers 
of  Armies,  Corps,  Divisions,  etc.,  of  the  British  and  Allied 
Armies,  e.g.,  they  are  written  in  full  for  Armies,  but  in 
Roman  figures  for  Corps,  and  in  Arabic  for  smaller  forma- 
tions and  units,  except  Artillery  Brigades,  which  are 
Roman  ;  thus  :  Fourth  Army,  IV.  Corps,  4th  Division, 
4th  Infantry  Brigade,  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  IV.  Brigade, 
R.F.A. 

German  formations  and  units,  to  distinguish  them 
clearly  from  the  Allies,  are  printed  in  italic  characters, 
thus  :  First  Army,  I.  Corps,  1st  Division. 

The  usual  Army,  and  sometimes  the  Army  List, 
abbreviations  of  regimental  names  have  been  used  in  the 
narrative ;  for  example,  "  2/R.  West  Kent "  or  "  West 
Kents"  for  2nd  Battalion  The  Queen's  Own  (Royal  West 
Kent  Regiment) ;  "  the  Somerset  "  or  "  Somerset  L.I."  for 
The  Somerset  Light  Infantry  ;  K.O.Y.L.I.  for  the  King's 
Own  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry  ;  K.R.R.C.  for  The 
King's  Royal  Rifle  Corps.  To  avoid  constant  repetition, 
the  "  Royal  "  in  regimental  titles  is  often  omitted  :  for 
instance,  the  Royal  Warwickshire  are  called  "  the  War- 
wickshire." 

Abbreviations  employed  occasionally  are  : — 
G.H.Q.  for  British  General  Headquarters. 
G.Q.G.  for  French  Grand  Quartier  General  (usually  spoken 
as  "  Grand  Q.G."). 
xiii 


xiv  MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

O.II.L.  for  German  Oherste  Heeresleitung  (German  Supreme 
Command).  N .B. — "G.H.Q."  in  German  means 
Grosses  Haupt-Quartier,  that  is  the  Kaiser's 
Headquarters,  pohtical,  mihtary  and  naval,  as 
distinguished  from  O.H.L. 
OfTieers  are  described  by  the  rank  which  they  held  at 
the  period  under  consideration. 

The  accents  in  French  and  Belgian  place  names  well 
known  to  British  troops  have  been  omitted. 

The  meaning  of  Reserve,  Ersatz,  Landwehr  as  applied 
to  German  formations  is  explained  on  pp.  21,  22.  Of  other 
German  terms  used,  Jdger  and  Schuizen  both  signify 
riflemen  formed  in  special  battalions  ;  Abteilung  means 
a  group  of  three  batteries  of  artillery ;  a  German  artillery 
brigade  consists  of  two  regiments  each  of  two  or  three 
Abteilungen.^ 

Pioniere  :  are  the  German  field  Engineers  ;  the  word 
cannot  well  be  translated  by  "  Engineers  "  or  "  Pioneers," 
as  the  men  in  the  Pioniere  units,  although  thc}'^  have  a 
thorough  training  in  field  engineering,  are  not  tradesmen 
of  the  class  found  in  R.E.  Companies,  and  are  only  employed 
on  field  duties  :  besides,  in  Germany  there  was  an  "  In- 
genieur  Korps,"  which  had  duties  in  the  construction  and 
maintenance  of  fortresses. 

Time  in  German  narratives  and  orders,  which  in  the 
period  dealt  with  was  one  hour  earlier  than  British,  has 
been  corrected  to  our  standard,  unless  it  is  specified 
"  German  time." 

*  Abteilung  also  means  a  mounted  machine-gun  battery  with  cavalry,  as 
opposed  to  the  M.G.  Kompagnie,  which  forms  part  of  an  infantry  regiment 
or  Jdger  battalion. 


CONTENTS 


INTRODUCTION 

PAGE 

The  Armies  of  the  Western  Allied  Forces  : 

Great  Britain      ..,.,..  1 

France     ........  14 

Belgium  ........  18 

Germany        ........  20 


CHAPTER  I 

The  Outbreak  of  War     ......       23 

Progress  of  Events  ......       31 

The  British  Entry  into  France  .  .  .  .48 

Notes  :    I.  Alleged  German  Troop  Movements  before  Mobiliza- 
tion .  .  .  .  .  .  .54 

II.  The  Sehlieffen  Plan 56 


CHAPTER  II 

22nd  August  1914  : 

First  Contact  with  the  Enemy  .  .  .  .62 

Note  :  German  Uncertainty  as  to  the  Position  of  the  B.E.F.    .        68 


CHAPTER  III 

The  Battle  of  Mons,  23rd  August     .  .  .  .71 

Note  :  The  German  Account  of  Mons         .  .  .  .94 


CHAPTER  IV 

The  Retreat  from  Mons  and  Action  of  Elouges,  24th 

August       .......       96 

Notes  :    I.  German  Movements  on  the  24th  August        .  .114 

II.  Operations  of  the  French  Troops  on  the  British  Left, 

20th-24th  August  .  .  .  .  .116 

XV  b 


xvi  MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

CHAPTER  V 


The  Rktreat  (continued),  27th-28th  August  : 

Smith-Dorrien's  Force  ..... 

Haig's  I.  Corps  ...... 

General  Situation,  Night  28th/29th  August  . 
Notes  :    I.  ^Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies 
after  Le  Cateau      .... 

II.  Movements  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  from  Charle 
roi  to  Guise  .... 

III.  General  Joffre's  Congratulatory  Telegram     . 

IV.  British  Losses,  23rd-27th  August 


PAOE 


The  Rktreat  from  Mons  (continued),  25th  August  .      118 

Notes  :    I.  Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies, 

23rd-25th  August  .  .  .  .  .129 

II.  Movements  of  General  Valabregue's  Group  of  Reserve 

divisions,  on  British  Right,  21st-25th  August  .      131 


CHAPTER  VI 

The  Retreat  from  Mons  (continued),  Evening  and  Night 
OF  25Tn/26TH  August  : 
Maroilles  and  Landrecies  ;  Solesmes  .  .  .      132 

Notes  :    I.  Movements  of  the  German   First   Army   on    25th 

August  .  .  .  .  .  .149 

II.  First    Belgian    Sortie    from    Antwerp,    24th,    25th, 

26th  August  .  .  .  .  .151 


CHAPTER  VII 

The  Battle  of  Le  Cateau,  26th  August.    Dawn  till  Noon     152 
Note  :  German  Plans  for  the  26th  August  .  .  .169 

CHAPTER  VIII  ^ 

The    Battle    of    Le    Cateau,    26th    August    (continued). 

Noon  to  5  p.m.    ......     171 


CHAPTER  IX 

The  Close  of  the  Battle  of  Le  Cateau,  26th  August. 

5  P.M.  TO  Nightfall       .....  186 

The  Retreat  from  the  Battlefield  ....  197 

The  I.  Corps  on  the  26th  August       ....  200 

Notes  :    I.  German  Accounts  of  Le  Cateau  .  .  .  204 

II.  General  d'Amade's  Force  on  the  British  Left,  26th 

August  ......  210 

CHAPTER  X 


212 

219 
229 

233 

237 
238 
238 


CONTENTS  xvii 

CHAPTER  XI 

PAGE 

The  Retreat  (continued),  29tii-31st  August  : 

29th  August        .......  239 

30th  August        .......  242 

31st  August         .......  246 

Notes  :    I.  Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies, 

29th-31st  August    .  .  .  .  .250 

II.  The  Battle  of  Guise,  29th-30th  August          .             .  252 

CHAPTER  XII 

The  Retreat  (continued),  1st  September  : 

The  Fight  at  Nery         .  .  .  .  .  .255 

The  Rear-guard  Action  of  Crepy  en  Valois  .  .  .      259 

The  Rear-guard  Actions  of  Villers  Cotterets  .  .     260 

Notes  :    I.  German  Movements  on  1st  September  .  .     265 

II.  The  Army  of  Paris         .  .  .  .  .267 


CHAPTER  XIII 

The  Last  Stages  of  the  Retreat,  2nd-5th  September    .     268 
Notes  :    I.  Operations  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies, 

2nd-5th  September  .  .  .  .287 

II.  The  Genesis  of  the  Battle  of  the  Marne         .  .     293 


CHAPTER  XIV 

The  Battle  of  the  Marne  : 

6th  September  :  The  Return  to  the  Offensive  .  .  295 

The  French  on  the  6th  September      ....  302 

Notes  :    I.  The  German  Right  Wing  on  the  6th  September       .  304 
II.  The  Despatch   of  General   Joffre's   Order  for  the 

Battle  of  the  Marne  ....  306 


CHAPTER  XV 

The  Battle  of  the  Marne  (continued)  : 

7th  September  :  The  March  to  the  Grand  Morin     .  .     308 

The  French  on  the  7th  September      .             .             .  .313 

Note  :  The  German  Right  Wing  on  the  7th  September  .  .315 


CHAPTER  XVI 

The  Battle  of  the  Marne  (continued)  : 

8th  September  :  The  Forcing  of  the  Petit  Morin     .  .318 

The  French  on  the  8th  September      ....      326 

Note  :  The  German  Right  Wing  on  the  8th  September  .  .     328 


xviii  MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

CHAPTER  XVII 

PAGE 

The  Battle  of  the  Marne  (concluded)  : 

9th  September  :  The  Passage  of  the  Marne  and  the  Retreat 

of  the  Germans      ......     332 

The  French  on  the  9th  September      ....     344 

Notes  :    I.  The  German  Right  Wing  on  the  9th  September       .      347 
II.  Tlie  Second  Belgian  Sortie  from  Antwerp,  9th-13th 

September  .  .....     356 

CHAPTER  XVIII 

The  Pursuit  to  the  Aisne,  10th-12th  September  : 

10th  September  ......  358 

The  French  on  the  10th  September    ....  364 

11th  September  :   The  Inchne  to  the  North-East    .  .  364 

Tlie  French  on  the  11th  September    ....  366 

12th  September  :  The  Advance  to  the  Aisne  .  .  366 

The  French  on  the  12th  September    ....  372 

Note  :  The  German  Retirement  from  the  Battle  of  the  Marne  373 

CHAPTER  XIX 

The  Battle  of  the  Aisne,  13th  September  : 

The  Passage  of  the  Aisne         .....  377 

The  French  on  the  13th  September    ....  391 

Note  :  The  13th  September  on  the  German  Side  .  .  392 

CHAPTER  XX 

The  Battle  of  the  Aisne  (continued)  : 

14th  September  :  The  Fight  for  the  Chemin  des  Dames    .  395 

The  French  on  the  14th  September    ....  418 

15th  September  :  The  Deadlock  ....  419 

The  French  on  the  15th  September    ....  422 

Note  :  The  14th-15th  September  on  the  German  Side    .  .  423 

CHAPTER  XXI 

Last  Days  on  the  Aisne  :  J 

General  Situation           ......  428  ' 

Operations  on  the  Aisne  .....  439 

Note  :  The  German  Strategy  during  the  Battle  of  the  Aisne     .  453  J 

CHAPTER  XXII 

The  "  Race  to  the  Sea  "  and  the  Transfer  of  the  B.E.F. 

to  Flanders         ......     456 

GENERAL  INDEX 577 

INDEX  TO  ARMS,  FORMATIONS  AxND  UNITS      .  .      585 


TABLE  OF  APPENDICES 


XIX 


TABLE  OF  APPENDICES 


1. 

2. 

3. 
4. 

5. 
6. 
7. 

8. 

9. 
10. 

11. 
12. 
13. 
14. 
15. 
16. 
17. 
18. 
19. 
20. 
21. 
22. 


Order  of  Battle  of  the  British  Expeditionary  Force, 
August  and  September  1914  .... 

Notes  on  the  organization  of  some  of  the  principal  forma- 
tions and  units  of  the  British  Expeditionary  Force  in 
1914     ....... 

Order  of  Battle  of  the  French  Armies  in  August  1914 

Notes  on  the  organization  of  some  of  the  principal  French 
formations  and  units  in  1914 

Order  of  Battle  of  the  Belgian  Army  in  August  1914 

Order  of  Battle  of  the  German  Armies  in  August  1914 

Notes  on  the  organization  of  some  of  the  principal  German 
formations  and  units  in  1914 

Instructions  to  Sir  John  French  from  Earl  Kitchener 
August  1914    ...... 

The  French  plan  of  campaign,  Plan  17  (translation) 

Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  5,  1  p.m.  20th 
August  1914  (with  march  table  and  allotment  of 
Army  troops)  ...... 

Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  6,  11.55  p.m. 
21st  August  1914       ...... 

Sir  John  French's  supplementary  instruction  to  Cavalry 
Division,  11.35  p.m.  21st  August  1914 

Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  7,  8.25  p.m. 
24th  August  1914 

Sir   John   French's   Operation 
25th  August  1914 


4th  Division  Operation  Order 
1914     . 

II.  Corps  Operation  Order  No 
1914     . 

Sir   John   French's   Operation 
27th  August  1914 

Sir  John   French's   Operation 
28th  August  1914 

Sir  John  French's   Operation 
August  1914    . 

Sir  John   French's   Operation 
30th  August  1914      . 

Sir  John   French's   Operation 
31st  Auarust  1914 


Order  No.  8,  7.30  p.m. 
No.  1,  5  P.M.  25th  August 
,  6,  10.15  P.M.  25th  August 
Order  No.  9,  8.30  p.m. 
Order  No.  10,  11.30  p.m. 
Order  No.  11,  9  p.m.  29th 
Order  No.   12,      5,15   p.m. 

•  •  •  • 

Order   No.   13,      8.50  p.m. 


G.H.Q.  messages  to  I.  Corps  anticipating  and  confirming 
order  to  retire,  1st  September  1914 


471 

485 
488 

490 
492 
493 

496 

499 
501 

508 
513 
514 
515 
516 
618 
520 
521 
522 
524 
525 
527 
529 


XX     MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

PAOE 

23.  Correspondence  with  regard  to  halting  on  the  Marne  and 

the  retreat  behind  the  Seine  (translation)  .  .     530 

24.  Sir   John   French's   Operation   Order   No.    14,    7.30   p.m. 

2nd  September  1914  .  .  .  .  .533 

25.  Sir  John   French's   Operation  Order  No.   15,   11.50  p.m. 

3rd  September  1914  .  .  .  .  .  .535 

26.  Le  General  Commandant  en  Chef  au  Field  Marechal  Sir 

John  French,  Commandant  en  Chef  les  forces  Britan- 
niques,  4th  September  1914  ....      537 

27.  Letter  of  Sir  John  French  to  Earl  Kitchener,  7th  September 

1914     ........      538 

28.  Sir  John  French's  Operation   Order  No.   16,     6.35  p.m. 

4th  September  1914  ......      540 

29.  Table  giving  length  of  daily  marches  (in  miles)  from  20th 

August  to  5th  September  (both  inclusive)  .  .      542 

30.  General  Joffre's  Instruction  for  the  battle  of  the  Marne 

(translation)    .......      543 

31.  Sir  John  French's   Operation   Order  No.   17,     5.15  p.m. 

5th  September  1914  ......      545 

32.  Cavalry  Division  Operation  Order  No.  11,  5th  September 

1914  (with  march  table)        .....      547 

33.  I.  Corps  Operation  Order  No.  10,  5th  September  1914    .      548 

34.  II.  Corps  Operation  Order  No.  15,  5th  September  1914    .     549 

35.  III.  Corps  Operation  Order  No.  7,  5th  September  1914      .      551 

36.  Sir  John  French's  Special  Order  of  the  Day,  6th  September 

1914     ........      552 

37.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.   18,  9  f.m.  7th 

September  1914  ......      553 

38.  Sir  John   French's   Operation   Order  No.   19,     7.30   p.m. 

8th  September  1914  ......      555 

39.  Sir  John   French's   Operation   Order  No.   20,     8.15  p.m. 

9th  September  1914  ......      556 

40.  Sir  John   French's   Operation   Order  No.   21,      8.15   p.m. 

10th  September  1914  .  ,  .  .  .558 

41.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  22,   6  p.m.  11th 

September  1914  ......      560 

42.  General  Joffre's  Special  Instruction  No.  23  of  12th  Sep- 

tember 1914    .......      562 

43.  Sir  John   French's  Operation   Order  No.   23,     7.45  p.m. 

12th  September  1914  .....      563 

44.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  24,     6  p.m.  13th 

September  1914  ......      565 

45.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  25,       14th  Sep- 

tember 1914    .......      567 

46.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  26,         8.30  p.m. 

15th  September  1914  .....     569 


TABLE  OF  APPENDICES  xxi 

PAGE 

47.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  27,         8.30  p.m. 

16th  September  1914  .  .  .  .  .570 

48.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  28,       3  p.m.  1st 

October  1914 .  .  .  .  .  .  .571 

49.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  29,    11  a.m.  2nd 

October  1914 .  .  .  .  .  .  .573 

50.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  30,      8  a.m.  4th 

October  1914 .  .  ,  .  .  .  .575 

51.  Sir  John  French's  Operation  Order  No.  31,        8.30  a.m. 

5th  October  1914        .  .  .  .  .  .576 


SKETCHES  AND  MAPS 


SKETCHES 
(Bound  in  Volume) 
A.  The  Retreat  from  Mons 

1.  General  Theatre  of  Operations  (Western  Front) 

2.  Concentration  of  the  Armies  (Western  Front) 

3.  Operations  4th-22nd  August  (German  Armies  in 

Belgium)  .... 

4.  Operations  of  B.E.F.,  23rd-28th  August  . 

5.  The  Eve  of  Mons,  22nd  August     . 

6.  The  Eve  of  Le  Cateau,  25th  August 

7.  Le  Cateau,  26th  August 

8.  The  Battle  of  Guise,  29th  August 

9.  Operations,    28th    August-5th    September    (Re 

treat  of  B.E.F.) 

10.  The  German  Advance,  17th  August-5th  Sept. 

11.  1st  September  1914 

12.  The  Marne,  5th  September 

12a.  General    Joffre's    Projects    for    the    Counter 
Offensive  .... 

13.  Operations,    6th-13th    September    (Advance    of 

B.E.F.)    .  .  .  •  • 

14.  The  Marne,  6th  September 

15.  The  Marne,  7th  September 

16.  8th  September.    Situation  as  known  at  German 

G.H.Q.     ..... 

17.  The  Crisis,  9th  September.     The  B.E.F.  crosses 

the  Marne  .... 

18.  The  Marne.     The  German  Retreat 

19.  The  Aisne,  14th  September 

20.  The  Aisne,  20th  September 

21.  The  Extension  of  the  Battle  Line  northwards 

15th  September-8th  October   . 

B.  The  Advance  to  the  Aisne  . 

xxiii 


Em 

i-paper 

At  beginning 

Facing  p.  15 

„     35 

„     51 

„     63 

„   121 

„  153 

„  237 

„  239 

„  251 

„  255 

„  281 

„  286 

„  295 
„  299 
„   309 

„   329 

„  333 
„  359 
„  377 
„  439 

„  457 
End-paper 


xxiv  MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

MAPS 

{In  Separate  Case) 

Plate  1.  Order   of  Battle   of  a   German   Cavalry   Division   and 
a  German  Corps  in  August  1914. 

Map    1.  The  Concentration  of  the  Armies  (Western  Front). 

2.  Theatre  of  Operations  (Western  Front)  1  : 1,000,000. 

3.  Mons  to  Compiegne,  1  :  250,000. 

4.  Compiegne  to  Paris  and  Melun,  1  :  250,000. 

5.  Situation,  17tii-24th  August. 

6.  Battlefield  of  Mons,  1  :  100,000  (layered). 

7.  Mons,  Sunday,  23rd  August. 

8.  Action  at  Elouges,  24th  August. 

9.  B.E.F.,  night,  25th/26th  August. 

10.  Battlefield  of  Le  Cateau,  1  :  40,000  (layered). 

11.  Le  Cateau,  26th  August. 

12.  Actions  at  Fesmy  and  fitreux,  27th  August. 

13.  Retreat  from  Mons,  23rd-29th  August. 

14.  Situation,  27th  August  (night). 

15.  Situation,  28th  August  (night), 

16.  Situation,  29th  August  (night). 

17.  Situation,  30th  August  (night). 

18.  Situation,  31st  August  (night). 

19.  1st  September,  1  :  100,000. 

20.  Situation,  1st  September  (night). 

21.  Situation,  2nd  September  (night). 

22.  Situation,  3rd  September  (night). 

23.  Situation,  4th  September  (night). 

24.  Situation,  5th  September  (night). 

25.  The  Marne  Battlefield,  1914  (layered). 

26.  Situation,  6th  September  (night). 

27.  Situation,  7th  September  (night). 

28.  Situation,  8th  September  (night). 

29.  The  Crisis  of  the  Marne,  9th  September  (afternoon). 

30.  Situation,  9th  September  (night). 

31.  Situation,  10th  September  (night). 

32.  Situation,  11th  September  (night). 

33.  Situation,  12th  September  (night). 

34.  Situation,  13th  September  (night). 

35.  Battlefield  of  the  Aisne,  1  :  100,000  (layered). 

36.  Battle  of  the  Aisne,  25th  September  1914. 


LIST  OF  BOOKS 

TO  WHICH  MOST  FREQUENT  REFERENCE  IS  MADE 

Baumgarten-Crusius  :    "  Die  Marneschlacht  1914."     By  General- 
major  Baunigarten-Crusius.     (Leipzig  :  Lippold.) 

An  account  of  the  battle  of  the  Marne  and  the  events  leading 
to  it,  founded  on  official  records.  It  is  written  particularly 
from  the  point  of  view  of  the  German  Third  Army  by  a  Saxon 
general.  This  was  the  first  German  book  which  told  the  truth 
about  the  Marne. 
Baumgarten-Crusius  II.  :  "  Deutsche  Heerfiihrung  im  Marne- 
feldzugl914."  By  Generalmajor  Baumgarten-Crusius.  (Berhn  : 
Scherl.) 

A  further  contribution  to  the  solution  of  the  question  of 
responsibility  for  the  orders  to  retreat  at  the  battle  of  the 
Marne. 
Belgian  General  Staff  :  "  Military  Operations  of  Belgium  in 
Defence  of  the  Country  and  to  Uphold  her  Neutrality."  (English 
translation  :  London,  Collingridge,  Is.  net.) 

Report,   compiled   by   the   Belgian    General   Staff,    for   the 
period  July  31st  to  December  31st,  1914. 
Bloem  :  "  Vormarsch."     By  Walter  Bloem.     (Leipzig  :  Grethlein.) 

One  of  the  most  graphic  and  dramatic  accounts  of  war  yet 
written.  The  author  is  a  well-known  German  novelist,  who 
was  serving,  as  a  Reserve  Captain,  in  the  12th  Brandenburg 
Grenadiers  {III.  Corps  of  von  Kluck's  Army).  He  gives  the 
story  of  his  experiences  from  outbreak  of  war  to  the  Aisne, 
where  he  was  wounded  on  ChivTCS  Spur. 

There  is  an  English  translation  :   "  The  Retreat  from  Mons, 
1914."     (Peter  Davies.) 
Brandis  :    "  Die  Stiirmer  von  Douaumont."     By  Oberleutnant  von 
Brandis.     (Berlin  :  Scherl.) 

The  author  served  in  the  24th  Regiment  of  the  ///.  Corps 
at  jMons,  Frameries,  etc.  He  later  took  part  in  the  capture  of 
Fort  Douaumont,  Verdun  ;  this  incident  is  commemorated  in 
the  title  of  his  book. 

BuLOw  :  "  Mein  Bericht  zur  Marneschlacht."  By  Generalfeld- 
marschall  von  Biilow.  (Berhn  :  Scherl.)  Translated  into 
French  as  "  Mon  rapport  sur  la  bataille  de  la  Marne."  (Paris  : 
Payot.) 

A  clear  military  narrative,  with  sketch  maps,  by  the  com- 
mander of  the  German  Second  Army,  which  includes  the  battle 
of  the  Aisne  1914. 

XXV 


xxvi  MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

Engerand  :  "  La  Bataille  de  la  Frontiere  (Aout  1914)."  By 
Fernand  Engerand,  Depute.     (Paris  :  Bossard.) 

The  author  was  "  rapporteur  "  of  the  Parhamentary  Com- 
mission which  inquired  into  the  loss  of  the  Briey  Basin.  He 
gives  a  summary  of  the  report,  with  important  documents  as 
appendices. 

Falkenhayn  :  "  General  Headquarters  1914-1916  and  its  Critical 
Decisions."  By  General  Erich  von  Falkenhayn.  (English 
translation,  Hutchinson  &  Co.,  21s.) 

Von  Falkenhayn  was  Prussian  Minister  of  War  in  1914  ; 
but  on  14th  September  he  took  over  the  duties  of  Chief  of  the 
General  Staff  from  von  Moltke.  The  book  deals  mostly  with 
the  successes  of  the  Russian  theatre  of  war,  but  contains  much 
of  importance  as  regards  decisions  in  the  West. 

F.O.A.  (French  Official  Account)  :  "  Les  Armees  Fran9aises  dans  la 
Grande  Guerre."  Ministere  de  la  Guerre  :  fitat-Major  de 
I'Armee-Service  Historique.     (Paris  :  Imprimerie  Nationale.) 

The  first  three  volumes  of  "  Tome  I  "  cover  the  period  from 
the  outbreak  of  war  to  14th  September  1914,  the  first  volume 
commencing  with  the  pre-war  plans,  including  Plan  XVII.  It 
is  a  severely  technical  record,  reinforced  by  a  mass  of  documents, 
there  being  seven  volumes  of  these  to  three  of  text  in  the ' '  Tome." 
Both  text  and  maps  are  inaccurate  as  regards  the  B.E.F.  at  the 
Battle  of  the  Marne. 

Gallieni  :  "  Memoires  du  General  Gallieni).  Defense  de  Paris." 
(Paris  :  Payot.) 

A  most  valuable  record.     With  Situation  Maps. 

G.O.A.  (German  Official  Account)  :  "  Der  Weltkreig  1914  bis  1918. 
Bearbeitet  im  Reichsarchiv.  Die  militarischen  Operationen  zu 
Lande."     (Berlin  :  Mittler.) 

The  first  two  volumes  were  published  at  the  end  of  1924, 
and  many  more  have  since  appeared.  Those  dealing  with  the 
Western  Front  up  to  the  end  of  October  are  the  first,  third, 
fourth  and  fifth. 

Although  complete  documents  are  not  quoted,  sufficient 
data  are  published  for  the  reader  to  form  his  own  conclusions. 
In  the  fifth  volume  the  scale  of  the  narrative  is  much  reduced 
and,  generally  speaking,  the  maps  hardly  reach  the  standard 
of  the  text. 

G.O.A.  K.u.K. :  The  first  volume,  with  appendices,  of  "  Kriegs- 
riistung  und  Kriegswirtschaft,"  published  in  1930. 

A  separate  part  of  the  German  Official  Account  it  deals  with 
"  Preparations  for  War."  That  section  devoted  to  military 
preparations  traces  the  increase  of  the  German  Army  from 
1875  to  1914. 

Hanotaux:  "  Histoireillustreede  la  Guerre  de  1914."  By  M.Gabriel 
Hanotaux.     Nine  volumes  published.     (Paris  :  Gounouilhou.) 

A  beautifully  illustrated  work  containing  a  large  number 
of  official  documents,  which  make  it  valuable.  The  twelfth 
volume  carries  the  narrative  as  far  as  the  "  Race  to  the  Sea." 


LIST  OF  BOOKS  xxvii 

Hausen  :  "  Erinnerungen  an  der  Marnefeldzug  1914."  By  General- 
oberst  Freiherr  von  Hausen.     (Leipzig  :  Koehler.) 

A  personal  and  historical  account  of  the  campaign  up  to 
the  end  of  the  battle  of  the  Marne  by  the  commander  of  the 
German  Third  Army,  with  numerous  sketch  maps  and  an  order 
of  battle  of  the  German  forces. 

Heubner  :  "  Unter  Emmich  vor  Liittich.  Unter  Kluck  vor 
Paris."  By  H.  Heubner,  Hauptmann  der  Reserve  und 
Professor  in  Wernigerode.     (Schwerin  :  Bahn.) 

A  very  vivid  account  by  a  professor  and  Reserve  captain, 
which  ends  at  the  Aisne  1914.  He  belonged  to  the  20th 
Infantry  Regiment,  11th  Infantry  Brigade,  6th  Division,  III. 
Corps  of  von  Kluck's  Army  and  was  at  Mons,  the  Ourcq,  etc. 

Kluck  :  "  Der  Marsch  auf  Paris,  und  die  Marneschlacht  1914." 
By  A.  von  Kluck,  Generaloberst.  (Berlin  :  Mittler.)  Trans- 
lated as  "  The  March  on  Paris  1914."     (Edward  Arnold,  10s.) 

Von  Kluck's  own  statement,  with  a  very  fine  map  showing 
the  movements  of  the  German  First  Army. 

KuHL  :  "  Der  deutsche  Generalstab  in  Vorbereitung  und  Durch- 
fiihrung  des  Weltkrieges."  By  General  der  Infanterie  H.  von 
Kuhl.     (Berlin  :  Mittler.) 

An  account  of  the  work  of  the  Great  General  Staff  in 
preparation  for  and  during  the  war,  specially  valuable  for  the 
part  dealing  with  the  development  of  the  German  plan  of 
campaign.  The  author  was  the  Chief  of  the  Staff  to  von  Kluck 
and  Crown  Prince  Ruppreeht  of  Bavaria,  and  had  served 
22  years  on  the  Great  General  Staff  before  the  war. 

Kuhl's  "  Marne  "  :    "  Der  Marnefeldzug  1914."     By  General  der 
Infanterie  H.  von  Kuhl.     (Berlin  :  Mittler.) 
Published  January  1921. 

LOHRISCH  :  "  Im  Siegessturm  von  Liittich  an  die  Marne."  By 
Oberleutnant  der  Reserve  Dr.  H.  Lohrisch.  (Leipzig  :  Quelle 
und  Meyer.) 

The  author  served  in  the  27th  Infantry  Regiment  of  the 
IV.  Corps  in  the  early  fighting,  including  Le  Cateau. 

"  Liittich-Namur  "  :  "  Der  grosse  Krieg  in  Einzeldarstellungen. 
Herausgegeben  im  Auftrage  des  grossen  Generalstabes."  (Olden- 
burg :  Gerhard  Stalling.) 

In  the  series  of  Great  General  Staff  monographs.  A  very 
complete  account  of  the  capture  of  Liege  and  Namur. 

"  Marnedrama  "  :   "  Das  Marnedrama  1914." 

This  is  also  in  the  series  of  Great  General  Staff  monographs. 
Published  in  1928,  in  five  volumes,  it  treats  of  the  Battle  of  the 
Marne  in  much  more  detail  than  G.O.A.  but  as  its  manifest 
purpose  is  to  glorify  the  officers  and  men  of  the  old  German 
Army  its  comments  and  claims  will  hardly  bear  investigation. 
The  sketch  maps,  however,  are  of  considerable  value. 

"  Mons  "  :   "  Die  Schlacht  bei  Mons." 

In  the  same  series  of  Great  General  Staff  monographs.  There 
are  excellent  maps  showing  the  German  dispositions. 


xxviii  MILITARY  HISTORY  OF  THE  GREAT  WAR 

M.W.B.  :  Militiir  Wochenblatt.     (Berlin  :  Mittler.) 
The  principal  German  military  journal. 

Palat  :  "  La  Grande  Guerre  sur  le  Front  Occidental."  By  General 
Palat  (Pierre  Lehautcourt).  In  fourteen  volumes.  (Paris  : 
Chapelot.) 

A  valuable  unofficial  compilation,  as  regards  the  movements 
of  the  French.  The  sixth  volume  deals  with  the  Battle  of  the 
Marne,  and  the  seventh  carries  the  story  of  the  war  on  the 
Western  Front  to  end  of  the  "  Race  to  the  Sea,"  1914.  The 
maps  are  portions  of  the  1  :  80,000  with  no  troops  marked  on 
them. 

PosECK  :  "  Die  deutsche  Kavallerie  in  Belgien  und  Frankreich 
1914."     By  Generalleutnant  von  Poseck.     (Berlin  :  Mittler.) 

The  author  was  Chief  of  the  Staff  of  the  I.  Cavalry  Corps. 
It  is  a  very  valuable  summary  of  the  German  cavalry  operations, 
based  on  the  official  records,  and  has  been  translated  in  the 
United  States. 

"  Regt.  No.  .  .  ."  These  are  references  to  war  histories  of  German 
regiments.  Most  of  them  are  in  the  series  "  Erinnerungsblatter 
deutscher  Regimenter,"  published  by  Gerhard  Stalling,  Olden- 
burg. The  volumes  vary  in  length  and  value  :  some  give 
detailed  accounts  of  the  fighting  with  extracts  from  the  remini- 
scences of  combatants ;  others  merely  reproduce  the  official 
war  diaries. 

"  Schlachten  und  Gefechte  "  :  "  Die  Schlachten  und  Gefechte  des 
Grossen  Krieges,  1914-1918.  Quellenwerk  nach  amtlichen 
Bezeichnungen  zusammengestellt  vom  Grossen  Generalstab." 
(Berlin  :  Sack.) 

An  official  list  of  battles  compiled  by  the  Great  General 
Staff  showing  the  formations,  etc.,  engaged  in  each,  and  lists 
of  the  higher  commanders,  with  excellent  index. 

Stegemann  :  "  Geschichte  des  Krieges."  Vols.  I.  II.  and  III.  By 
H.  Stegemann,  a  Swiss  journalist.  (Stuttgart  :  Deutsche 
Verlags-Anstalt.) 

A  good  general  account  of  the  war  from  the  German  point 
of  view. 

Tappen  :  "  Bis  zur  Marne."  By  Generalleutnant  Tappen.  (Olden- 
burg :  Stalling.) 

The  author  was  head  of  the  Operations  Section  of  Supreme 
Headquarters  until  August  1916.  His  book  gives  considerable 
insight  into  the  opening  operations  up  to  and  including  the 
Marne,  but  has  led  to  a  good  deal  of  controversy  in  Germany. 

VoGEL  :  "  3,000  Kilometer  mit  der  Garde-Kavallerie."  By  Hof- 
prediger  Dr.  Vogel.     (Leipzig  :  Velhagen  und  Klassing.) 

This  is  practically  a  picturesque  diary  of  the  operations 
of  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division  from  outbreak  of  war  to  May 
1915,  written  by  the  Divisional  Chaplain. 

WiRTH  :  "  Von  der  Saale  zur  Aisne."  By  Hauptmann  der  Land- 
wehr  A.  Wirth.     (Leipzig  :  Hesse  und  Becker.) 

A  small  diary  by  an  orderly  officer  attached  to  the  Staff 
of  the  13th  Reserve  Division  {IV.  Reserve  Corps)  that  fought 
at  Le  Cateau,  etc. 


LIST  OF  BOOKS  xxix 

"  Ypres  "  :  "  Ypres  1914  "  (Constable  :  5s.),  translation  of  "  Die 
Schlacht  an  der  Yser  und  bei  Ypern  ini  Herbst  1914."  (In  the 
same  series  as  "  Liittich-Namur.") 

Contains,  besides  an  account  of  the  First  Ypres,  a  good 
many  details  of  the  organization  of  the  German  Army. 

ZwEHL  :  "  Maubeuge,  Aisne,  Verdun."  By  General  der  Infanterie 
von  Zwehl.     (Berlin  :  Curtius.) 

The  author  commanded  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps,  captured 
Maubeuge,  and  reached  the  Chemin  des  Dames  ridge  at  the 
Aisne  just  in  time  to  prevent  tlie  British  I.  Corps  from  seizing 
it.  There  is  a  good  account  of  the  battle  and  much  else  of 
interest  in  the  book. 


INTRODUCTION 

THE    ARMIES    OF    THE    WESTERN    ALLIED    POWERS 

GREAT  BRITAIN 

Eighteen  hundred  and  seventy-one,  the  year  which  saw 
the  proclamation  of  the  German  Empire  at  Versailles,  wit- 
nessed also  the  beginning  of  a  new  epoch  in  the  history  of  the 
British  Army.  It  was  then  that  the  first  steps  were  taken  to 
replace  the  old  army  of  Peninsular  model  by  a  force  raised 
and  organized  on  modern  lines  :  the  system  of  purchase, 
under  which  officers  of  the  cavalry  and  infantry  bought 
their  commissions  in  each  successive  regimental  rank,  was 
abolished  ;  short  service  was  adopted,  not  so  much  with 
the  idea  of  attracting  recruits  as  of  building  up  a  reserve ; 
and  regiments  of  infantry,  except  those  which  were  already 
composed  of  more  than  one  battalion,  were  grouped  in  pairs. 
Ten  years  later,  in  1881,  this  grouping  was  made  permanent, 
the  old  numbers  were  abolished  and  the  infantry  was  re- 
constituted into  double-battalion  regiments  with  territorial 
titles  on  a  territorial  basis. ^ 

The  old  Militia,  Regular  and  Local,  remained,  as  always, 
on  a  territorial  basis.  It  was  gradually  drifting  back  to 
the  function,  which  it  had  fulfilled  during  the  Napoleonic 
wars,  of  a  recruiting  depot  for  the  army,  but  without  the 
ballot ;  for  the  enforcement  of  the  ballot  had  for  a  long 
time  been  suspended  by  an  annual  Act  of  Parliament. 

Side  by  side  with  the  Militia  stood  the  Yeomanry 
Cavalry,  first  called  into  being  by  the  threat  of  a  French 
invasion  in  1794-95.  It  had  always  attracted  an  excellent 
class  of  recruit,  but  its  training  was  very  limited,  both  in 
scope  and  duration. 

Behind  the  Militia  and  Yeomanry  were  the  Volunteers, 

^  An  excellent  account  of  the  development  of  the  Army  will  be  found 
in  "  The  Army  Book  of  the  British  Empire  "  (H.M.  Stationery  Office, 
5s.).     It  unfortunately  stops  at  1893. 

VOL.  II  B 


2  INTRODUCTION 

chiefly  infantry.  They  also  had  been  first  formed  in 
1794-95  ;  but  in  1806-7  they  had  been  transformed  into 
Local  Militia,  recruited  by  ballot  without  power  of  sub- 
stitution, and  subject  to  the  same  discipline  as  the  Militia. 
After  1815  the  Local  Militia  soon  died  out  ;  but  in  1859  the 
Volunteers  were  revived  on  the  original  basis  of  1794-95. 

The  best  part  of  a  generation,  however,  was  needed  for 
the  new  army  system  initiated  in  1871  to  settle  down  and 
bear  fruit.  The  home  battalion  of  a  regiment  was  for  years 
little  more  than  a  group  of  boys  who,  as  they  matured, 
were  drafted  out  to  the  battalion  on  foreign  service.  Only 
in  India  was  the  real  British  Army  of  grown  and  fully- 
trained  men  to  be  seen. 

In  1899-1902  the  war  in  South  Africa  put  the  British 
military  forces  to  a  rude  practical  test.  Never  before  had 
so  many  troops  been  sent  overseas.  The  Regular  Army 
was  found  to  be  too  small  for  the  work  even  when  the 
Reserves  had  been  called  out,  so  that  means  to  supplement 
it  had  to  be  improvised.  The  Militia  and  Yeomanry 
volunteered  for  foreign  service  almost  to  a  man  ;  the 
Volunteer  battalions  sent  a  succession  of  companies  to 
the  Regular  battalions  of  their  regiments  in  South  Africa, 
and  formed  special  active  service  units  ;  finally  the  Overseas 
Dominions  and  Colonies  enthusiastically  raised  and  des- 
patched contingents.  The  experience  acquired  in  this  war 
by  all  arms  and  by  all  branches  of  the  Staff  was  soon  to 
prove  of  the  utmost  value. 

In  February  1904  the  office  of  Commander-in-Chief  was 
abolished,  and  an  Army  Council  was  set  up.  It  gave  the 
Secretary  of  State  a  board  of  six  advisers  :  four  professional 
soldiers,  each  of  them  at  the  head  of  a  great  department,  and 
two  civilians,  known  as  the  financial  and  civil  members. 
The  duties  of  the  Commander-in-Chief  as  regards  inspection 
of  troops  were  transferred  to  an  Inspector-General  of  the 
Forces. 

Next  came  the  constitution  of  a  General  Staff,  on 
principles  which  were  established  at  a  meeting  of  the  Army 
Council  on  9th  August  1905.  The  Chief  of  the  General 
Staff  was  authorized  to  proceed  with  its  formation  on 
11th  November  1905.  Instructions  for  its  organization  were 
promulgated  by  a  special  Army  Order  of  12th  September 
1906.  Such  a  body  was  a  complete  innovation  in  the 
British  Army.  The  word  "  Staff  "  had  been  known  for 
generations,  but  signified  originally  no  more  than  the 
Department  of  the  Commander-in-Chief  as  contrasted  with 


THE  BRITISH  ARMY  8 

that  of  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War — of  the  Horse 
Guards  as  distinguished  from  the  War  Office.  This  Staff, 
however,  was  an  administrative  one  only  ;  there  was  no 
such  thing  as  a  Staff  at  Headquarters  charged  with  such 
duties  as  are  now  associated  with  the  name.  Nor  was  the 
Headquarters  Staff  at  the  Horse  Guards  consulted  as  to 
military  plans  and  operations.  Its  business  was  to  pro- 
vide such  trained  men  as  the  Cabinet  required,  not  to  advise 
as  to  their  duties  or  their  employment. 

The  General  Staff  came  into  being  under  the  guidance 
of  Mr.  (later  Lord)  Haldane,  who  became  Secretary  of 
State  for  War  in  December  1905,  and  was  charged  with 
the  duty  of  reorganizing  the  land  forces  not  only  of  the 
country,  but  of  the  Empire. 

The  need  of  reform  was  urgent,  for  the  Germans  made 
little  concealment  of  their  intention  to  enter  the  lists  for 
the  domination  of  the  world,  and  were  not  only  perfecting 
vast  military  preparations,  but  quietly  insinuating  them- 
selves into  the  control  of  the  most  important  financial  and 
commercial  undertakings  of  their  neighbours.  They  had 
already  established  an  elaborate  system  of  espionage,  and 
were  abusing  the  hospitality  of  friendly  States  by  organizing 
also  a  system  of  sabotage — that  is  to  say,  the  destruction, 
by  secret  agents  introduced  in  time  of  peace,  of  such  im- 
portant means  of  communication  as  telegraph  lines,  rail- 
way junctions  and  bridges,  and  the  like.^  Hitherto  our 
ancient  and  glorious  rival  had  been  France  ;  but  this  new 
enemy  lay  to  the  east  and  not  to  the  south  ;  and  the  eyes 
of  those  charged  with  the  defence  of  the  United  Kingdom 
were  now  turned  towards  the  North  Sea  instead  of  across 
the  Channel. 

There  was  now  also  a  prospect  that,  in  order  to  fulfil 
our  treaty  obligations,  it  might  become  necessary  to  land 
a  force  on  the  continent  of  Europe  for  the  purpose  of 
protecting  the  integrity  of  Belgium,  and  to  operate  in 
conjunction  with  the  French  and  Belgian  armies  in  case  of 
a  German  attack  on  France  which  should  involve  the  viola- 
tion of  Belgian  neutrality.     Hitherto  Britain  had  always 

^  An  assurance  has  been  received  from  the  Reichsarchiv  that  neither  in 
the  Marine  Archiv  (Navy  Historical  Section)  nor  in  the  MiUtary  Section 
and  the  Espionage  Section  has  anything  of  the  nature  of  the  sabotage 
system  mentioned  in  the  text  been  discovered.  Doubtless  the  arrange- 
ments detected  in  the  Empire  were  the  work  of  irresponsible  individuals. 
In  any  case,  no  harm  was  done  in  the  United  Kingdom ;  for  on  declaration 
of  war  all  suspected  German  agents,  except  one  who  was  absent  from 
England  on  a  holiday,  were  arrested. 


4  INTRODUCTION 

depended  upon  a  nominally  voluntary  army  for  service 
abroad  ;  but  the  numbers  which  could  thus  be  raised  were 
unlikely  to  be  sufficient  in  an  European  war  on  a  modern 
scale  ;  and  to  combine  a  voluntary  with  a  compulsory 
system  of  recruiting  at  short  notice  seemed  impracticable, 
even  if  Parliament  could  have  been  brought  to  assent  to 
it.  The  problem  presented  to  Mr.  Haldane,  therefore,  was 
how  to  reorganize  the  existing  forces  so  as  to  raise  them  to 
the  highest  point  of  efficiency,  and  to  provide  for  their 
rapid  expansion  in  time  of  need. 

In  the  reorganization  of  1908  the  first  step  was  to  build 
up  a  General  Staff  which  should  be  the  brains  of  the  army. 
Special  care  was  taken  to  separate  its  work,  as  a  department 
concerned  with  strategy  and  training,  from  that  of  the  old 
Headquarters  Staff,  whose  duties  were  purely  administra- 
tive. The  instruction  for  officers  of  all  branches  of  the 
Staff  was  provided  at  the  Staff  College,  Camberley,  which 
was  greatly  enlarged,  and  at  the  Indian  Staff  College  at 
Quetta,  then  recently  founded  by  Lord  Kitchener.  From  the 
graduates  of  these  institutions  officers  for  the  General  Staff 
and  for  the  Adjutant-General's  and  Quartermaster-General's 
Departments  were  chosen.  For  the  technical  instruction  of 
the  Administrative  Staff  special  arrangements  were  made 
at  the  London  School  of  Economics  for  selected  officers, 
including  Staff  College  graduates,  to  be  trained  in  such 
matters  as  business  management  and  railway  organization. 

The  initial  difficulty  of  providing  a  reserve  of  officers 
was  very  great.  Mr.  Haldane  turned  to  the  universities 
to  supplement  the  military  colleges  at  Sandhurst  and 
Woolwich  by  converting  the  Volunteer  Corps  which  had 
long  existed  at  our  older  universities  into  Officers'  Training 
Corps.i  In  these,  under  the  guidance  of  the  General  Staff 
and  with  the  concurrence  of  the  university  authorities, 
practical  military  instruction  was  given  not  only  to  army 
candidates  but  to  many  students  who  did  not  intend 
entering  the  military  profession  as  a  career.  Public 
schools  which  possessed  Volunteer  Corps  were  invited 
to  convert  them  into  contingents  of  the  Officers'  Training 
Corps  ;  whilst  universities  and  schools  which  did  not  pos- 
sess such  corps  were  encouraged  to  form  them,  and  those 
which  did   so  were  given  the  privilege  of  nominating  a 

1  The  idea  of  turning  the  University  Volunteers  into  an  Officers' 
Training  Corps  was  suggested  by  Lord  Lovat  and  others  just  after  the 
conclusion  of  the  South  African  War,  but  was  not  then  taken  up  by  the 
authorities. 


THE  BRITISH  ARMY  5 

certain  number  of  boys  for  admission  to  Sandhurst  without 
further  examination. 

In  the  Regular  Army  one  great  need  of  the  mounted 
branches  was  a  reserve  of  horses  to  make  good  the  deficiencies 
on  mobilization.  This  was  supplied  by  taking  a  census  of 
all  horses  in  the  kingdom,  and  obtaining  statutory  power 
to  requisition  all  which  were  suitable  for  military  purposes. 

In  the  Artillery  there  was  an  insufficiency  of  ammuni- 
tion columns  to  meet  the  increased  expenditure  of  ammuni- 
tion due  to  the  introduction  of  quick-firing  guns.  The 
Garrison  Artillery  Militia  was  therefore  turned  into  a 
Special  Reserve,  to  be  used  primarily  in  the  formation  of 
these  columns ;  thirty-three  Regular  batteries,  which  had 
their  full  complement  of  guns  but  few  men,  were  employed 
to  train  them.  The  general  reserve  of  artillery  was,  by 
careful  nursing,  increased.  By  1912  the  number  of  batteries 
which  could  be  mobilized  for  war  had  been  increased  from 
forty-two  to  eighty-one.  The  field  artillery  was  gradually 
organized  into  brigades,  each  of  three  batteries  and  an 
ammunition  column. 

In  the  Infantry  steps  were  taken  to  restore  the  observ- 
ance of  the  system,  generally  called  after  Lord  Cardwell,  that 
for  every  battalion  abroad  at  least  one  should  be  at  home. 
The  balance  had  been  upset  as  a  consequence  of  the  South 
African  War  and  our  rapid  Imperial  expansion.  By  the 
withdrawal  of  certain  colonial  garrisons,  the  proportion 
was  eventually  established  at  eighty-four  battalions  at 
home — including  nine  of  Guards  that  did  not  come  into 
the  Cardwell  system — and  seventy-three  abroad. 

The  Army  Service  Corps,  reorganized  in  1888,  had 
proved  itself  so  efficient  in  South  Africa  that  it  needed 
little  more  than  such  changes  in  organization  as  were 
entailed  by  the  introduction  of  motor  transport.  In  1900 
the  War  Office  had  appointed  a  Mechanical  Transport 
Committee,  and  by  1911  two  schemes  were  in  operation, 
viz.  (a)  the  Provisional  Subsidy  Scheme,  by  which  civil 
vehicles  could  be  requisitioned  for  military  purposes,  until 
through  (b)  the  Main  Subsidy  Scheme  the  number  of 
vehicles  built  to  the  War  Office  specifications  for  private 
owners  should  suffice  to  supply  the  needs  of  the  Army. 
Both  schemes  were  employed  to  furnish  the  necessary 
vehicles  on  mobilization  in  1914.  In  1912  the  transport 
of  the  divisions  and  the  cavalry  was  reorganized.  The 
horsed  baggage  and  supply  wagons  were  grouped  into 
Train  companies,  leaving  only  first  line  or  fighting  trans- 


6  INTRODUCTION 

port  with  regimental  units.  For  each  division  there  was 
formed  a  divisional  supply  column  of  motor  lorries,  whose 
business  it  was  to  bring  up  rations  to  a  point  where  the 
supply  sections  of  the  divisional  Train  could  refill,  and,  if 
possible,  to  take  back  sick  and  wounded. 

In  the  Medical  Services  of  the  Army  many  important 
changes  were  made  in  organization,  training  and  adminis- 
tration.^ They  were  due  not  only  to  the  experience  gained 
in  the  South  African  War,  but  to  the  lessons  learnt  from 
the  Russo-Japanese  War  of  1904-5,  and  to  the  revision 
of  the  Geneva  Convention  in  1906,  which  afforded  a  new 
basis  for  the  organization  of  voluntary  aid.  In  the  place 
of  the  bearer  companies  and  field  hospitals  each  division 
and  the  cavalry  division  were  provided  with  self-contained 
field  ambulances,  and  a  new  echelon — the  clearing  hospital — 
was  introduced  to  facilitate  the  rapid  evacuation  of  wounded, 
which  was  to  be  the  great  feature  of  the  new  system.  Motor 
transport,  though  proposed  in  1908,  was  only  introduced 
on  a  very  meagre  scale,  suflftcient  for  peace  purposes.  The 
Army  Nursing  Service  was  put  on  a  firm  basis.  Under 
the  auspices  of  an  Army  Medical  Board,  of  which  eminent 
civilian  specialists  were  members,  sanitation,  measures  for 
prevention  of  disease,  inoculation,  and  the  provision  of 
pure  water,  received  special  attention.  To  keep  the 
medical  service  in  touch  with  the  General  Staff,  officers  of 
the  Royal  Army  Medical  Corps  were  appointed  to  special 
sections  of  the  Directorates  of  Military  Operations  and 
Military  Training.  The  medical  service  of  the  Territorial 
Force  was  organized  similarly  to  that  of  the  Regular  Army, 
and  large  provision  made  for  the  formation  of  hospitals  in 
time  of  war  and  the  organization  of  voluntary  aid. 

The  Militia  was  renamed  Special  Reserve,  to  indicate 
what  it  had  long  been  in  practice — a  depot  for  feeding  the 
Regular  Army. 

The  Regular  Army,  or  First  Line,  was  reorganized 
into  an  Expeditionary  Force  consisting  of  six  divisions  of 
all  arms  and  one  cavalry  division.  Each  of  the  six  divi- 
sions comprised  three  infantry  brigades,  or  twelve  battalions 
altogether,  with  divisional  mounted  troops,  artillery, 
engineers,  signal  service,  supply  and  transport  train,  and 
field  ambulances.  The  total  war  establishment  of  each 
division  was  thus  raised  to  some  18,000  of  all  ranks  and 

^  They  will  be  found  described  in  detail  in  "  History  of  the  Great 
War,  Medical  Services,  General  History,"  and  are  therefore  enumerated 
here  very  briefly. 


THE  EXPEDITIONARY  FORCE  7 

descriptions,  of  whom  12,000  were  infantry,  with  24 
machine  guns,  and  4,000  artillery,  with  seventy-six  guns 
(fifty-four  18-pdrs.  ;  eighteen  4-5-inch  howitzers  ;  and 
four  60-pdrs.).  The  Cavalry  Division  comprised  four 
brigades  of  three  regiments  each,  and  cavalry  divisional 
troops,  consisting  of  artillery,  engineers,  signal  service 
and  medical  units. ^  The  strength  was  some  9,000  of  all 
ranks  and  10,000  horses,  with  twenty-four  guns  (13-pdrs.) 
and  twenty-four  machine  guns.  Although  the  nucleus 
of  one  corps  staff  was  maintained  in  time  of  peace,  at 
Aldershot,  and  corps  had  been  formed  at  manoeuvres,  it 
was  not  originally  intended  to  have  any  intermediate 
echelon  between  General  Headquarters  and  the  six  divisions. 
The  decision  to  form  corps  was — in  order  to  conform  to 
French  organization  —  made  immediately  on  the  formal 
appointment  on  mobilization  of  Field  -  Marshal  Sir  John 
French  as  Commander-in-Chief.  Thus  it  happened  that 
two  out  of  the  three  corps  staffs  had  to  be  improvised ;  even 
for  each  division  four  staff  officers  had  to  be  found,  as 
the  Peace  Establishment  contained  only  two  out  of  the  six 
of  the  War  Establishment.  None  the  less,  the  organization 
of  the  Expeditionary  Force  was  a  great  step  forward  in  the 
preparation  of  the  army  for  war. 

The  Yeomanry  became  the  second  line  of  cavalry,  and 
was  reorganized  into  fourteen  brigades. 

The  Volunteers  were  treated  according  to  the  precedent 
of  Castlereagh,  who  had  invited  them  to  convert  themselves 
into  Local  Militia,  on  pain  of  disbandment.  So,  too,  Mr. 
Haldane  bade  them  either  become  Territorial  troops  or 
cease  to  exist,  Mr.  Haldane  further  reverted  to  the  old 
policy  of  decentralization,  and  entrusted  the  raising  and 
administration  of  the  Territorial  Force  to  the  County 
Lieutenancies,  renamed  Territorial  Associations,  under  the 
Presidency  of  the  Lords  Lieutenant.  The  only  difference 
between  the  schemes  of  the  two  statesmen  was  that 
Castlereagh  insisted  upon  compulsory  personal  service, 
under  the  ballot,  for  the  Local  Militia,  whereas  Mr.  Haldane 
did  not — or  rather,  in  the  prevailing  temper  of  Parliament, 
could  not — do  the  same  for  the  Territorial  Force.  This 
force,  whose  establishment  was  something  over  300,000 
strong,  was  organized  upon  exactly  the  same  lines  as  the 
Regular  Army.  Its  units  were  grouped  into  fourteen 
divisions,  commanded  by  major-generals  of  the  Regular 
Army,  with  small  Regular  staffs. 

^  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  left  independent. 


8  INTRODUCTION 

The  old  Militia  Garrison  Artillery  was  replaced  by 
Territorial  Coast  Artillery.  The  field  artillery  of  Terri- 
torial divisions  was  armed  with  15-pounder  guns  converted 
into  quick-firers,  and  5-inch  howitzers  used  in  the  South 
African  War  ;  its  heavy  artillery  consisted  of  4-7-inch  guns. 
Thus  none  of  its  armament  was  modern. 

So  much  for  the  reorganization  of  the  Territorial  Forces 
on  paper.  Unfortunately,  before  1914,  both  Special 
Reserve  and  Territorial  troops  sank  so  far  below  their 
establishment  as  to  cause  some  anxiety  at  headquarters  ; 
but  it  was  not  doubted  that  many  old  Territorials  would 
rejoin  the  force  at  the  approach  of  danger,  and  this  con- 
fidence proved  to  be  well  justified.  It  was  not  anticipated 
that  the  Territorials  would  be  ready  for  the  field  in  less 
than  six  months  after  mobilization ;  but  since  they  would 
have  at  least  some  training,  and  as  their  organization  was 
identical  with  that  of  the  First  Line,  they  could  be  em- 
ployed to  reinforce  the  Regular  Army,  either  by  units  or 
by  complete  divisions,  as  they  became  ready. 

It  had  been  Mr.  Haldane's  intention  to  make  the  County 
Associations  the  medium  for  indefinite  expansion  of  the 
forces  in  case  of  need.  The  rough  plans  for  such  expansion 
were  actually  blocked  out,  some  of  the  Associations  possess- 
ing, in  whole  or  in  part,  the  machinery  for  carrying  the 
plan  into  effect.  But  the  scheme  had  not  yet  received 
statutory  sanction,  and  had  not  been  worked  out  in  detail. 
Meanwhile,  the  County  Associations  justified  Mr.  Haldane's 
faith  in  them,  and  their  zeal  and  ability  were  of  the  utmost 
value  to  the  War  Office  and  the  country. 

The  first  textbook  issued  after  the  South  African  War 
for  the  instruction  of  the  army  was  "  Combined  Training," 
dated  1902,  written  by  the  late  Colonel  G.  F.  R.  Hender- 
son. This,  in  1905,  became  Part  I.  of  "Field  Service 
Regulations."  In  1909  the  book  was  superseded  by  the 
issue  of  "  Field  Service  Regulations — Part  I.  (Operations)," 
while  "  Part  II.  (Organization  and  Administration)"  was 
published  for  the  first  time.  These  manuals  dealt  with  the 
general  principles  governing  the  employment  of  the  army 
in  war. 

Individual  training — that  is,  the  physical  training, 
including  route  marching,  bayonet  fighting,  musketry, 
signalling,  scouting,  and  generally  the  education  of  the 
individual  in  his  duties  and  the  use  of  his  arms — was 
carried  on  during  the  winter  ;  this  gave  place  in  the  spring 
to  the  training  by  units,  first  of  squadrons,  companies  and 


THE  EXPEDITIONARY  FORCE  9 

batteries ;  next  of  cavalry  regiments,  infantry  battalions 
and  artillery  brigades  ;  then  of  cavalry  and  infantry 
brigades,  first  alone  and  secondly  in  conjunction  with  other 
arms  ;  and  lastly  of  divisions  ;  the  whole  culminated  in 
inter-divisional  exercises  and  army  manoeuvres. 

The  great  feature  of  the  training  for  the  attack  and 
counter-attack  was  combination  of  fire  and  movement. 
Ground  was  gained  as  the  enemy  was  approached  by  rushes 
of  portions  of  a  battalion,  company  or  platoon,  under  cover 
of  the  fire  of  the  remainder  and  of  the  artillery.  By  this 
procedure,  a  strong  firing  line  was  built  up  some  200  yards 
from  the  enemy  ;  when  fire  superiority  had  been  attained 
an  assault  was  delivered.  An  attacking  force  was  divided 
into  firing  line  and  supports,  with  local  reserves,  and  the 
advance  was  often  made  in  parallel  lines  in  extended  order  ; 
but  the  form  was  essentially  elastic  and  adapted  to  the 
ground,  with  the  definite  objects  of  maintaining  control, 
utilizing  such  cover  as  was  available,  and  presenting  as 
difficult  a  target  as  possible  to  the  enemy.^ 

IVIobilization  was  regularly  practised.  Every  winter 
certain  units  were  brought  up  to  war  establishment  in  the 
prescribed  manner,  the  reservists  and  horses  required  to 
complete  them  being  represented  by  men  and  animals  from 
other  units.  In  1910  one  of  the  two  Aldershot  divisions 
was  mobilized  at  the  expense  of  the  other  and  by  volunteers 
from  the  1st  Class  Army  Reserve,  and  so  was  able  to  take 
part  in  the  manoeuvres  at  war  establishment.  Not  only 
fighting  units,  but  also  such  branches  as  the  Ordnance  and 
the  Postal  Service  were  represented  at  manoeuvres,  and 
their  work  was  carried  on  under  conditions  approximating 
to  those  of  active  service. 

All  these  reforms  were  pushed  forward  under  the  in- 
evitable disadvantages  which  have  ever  hampered  the 
British  Army.  Recruits  were  dribbling  in  at  all  times  of 
the  year.  Trained  instructors  were  being  withdrawn  for 
attachment  to  the  auxiliary  forces,  and  drafts  of  trained 
men  were  constantly  leaving  their  battalions  during  the 
autumn  and  winter  for  India.     The  commanders,  again, 

^  The  soundness  of  the  principle  of  the  combination  of  fire  and  move- 
ment was  abundantly  proved  during  the  war  ;  but,  as  experience  was 
gained,  it  was  found  that  there  was  no  role  for  "  supports  "  of  the  kind 
laid  down  in  the  pre-war  manuals  ;  reinforcing  a  line  already  stopped 
by  casualties  merely  meant  increasing  losses  without  corresponding  gain  ; 
it  became  apparent  that  the  proper  employment  of  "  local  reserves  "  was 
to  exploit  local  successes,  and  to  fill  defensively  gaps  in  an  attacking  line 
that  had  been  brought  to  a  standstill. 


10  INTRODUCTION 

could  never  tell  whether  their  next  campaign  might  not  be 
fought  in  the  snows  of  the  Himalayas,  the  swamps  and 
bush  of  Africa  or  the  deserts  of  Egypt — a  campaign  in 
Europe  hardly  entered  into  their  calculations.  It  was 
practically  impossible  for  the  General  Staff  to  keep  abreast 
of  the  detailed  information  required  as  to  possible  theatres 
of  war.  Nevertheless,  British  regimental  officers,  to  use 
their  own  expression,  "  carried  on,"  although  confronted 
with  two  changes  uncongenial  to  many  of  the  older  men 
among  them  :  the  cavalry  was  trained  to  an  increasing  extent 
in  the  work  of  mounted  infantry,  and  was  armed  with  a  rifle 
instead  of  a  carbine ;  and  the  Regular  infantry  battalions 
were  organized  into  four  companies  instead  of  eight. 

In  every  respect  the  Expeditionary  Force  of  1914  was 
incomparably  the  best  trained,  best  organized,  and  best 
equipped  British  Army  which  ever  went  forth  to  war.^ 
Except  in  the  matter  of  co-operation  between  aeroplanes 
and  artillery,  and  use  of  machine  guns,  its  training  would 
stand  comparison  in  all  respects  with  that  of  the  Germans.^ 
Where  it  fell  short  of  our  enemies  was  first  and  foremost 
in  numbers  ;  so  that,  though  not  "  contemptible,"  it  was 
almost  negligible  in  comparison  with  continental  armies, 
even  of  the  smaller  States. ^  In  heavy  guns  and  howitzers, 
high-explosive  shell,^  trench  mortars,  hand-grenades,^  and 

1  For  the  Order  of  Battle  and  organization  of  the  British  Expeditionary 
Force,  see  Appendices  1  and  2. 

2  The  German  General  Staff  in  1912  considered  it  an  "  ebenbiirtiger 
Gegner  " — man  for  man  as  good  as  their  own.  (Kuhl,  "  Der  deutsche 
Generalstab,"  p.  87.) 

3  The  following,  which  is  translated  from  the  German  Admiralty 
Staff's  "Der  Krieg  zur  See  1914-1918  :  Nordsee,"  1.  p.  82,  is  of  interest 
in  this  connection  : 

"  The  Supreme  Command  made  no  demands  whatever  on  the  Navy  to 
stop  or  delay  the  British  transports.  On  the  contrary,  it  seemed  not  to 
place  much  value  on  the  action  of  the  efficient  (wertvoll)  but  numerically 
weak  Expeditionary  Corps.  In  any  case,  when  at  the  beginning  of  the 
war  Frigate-Captain  Heydel  of  the  Operations  Section  was  sent  by  the 
Admiralty  to  inquire  if  the  Army  laid  stress  on  the  interruption  of  the 
transport  of  troops,  the  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  personally  replied  that 
the  Navy  should  not  allow  the  operations  that  it  would  otherwise  carry 
out  to  be  interfered  with  on  this  account  ;  it  would  even  be  of  advantage 
if  the  Armies  in  the  West  could  settle  with  the  160,000  English  at  the 
same  time  as  the  French  and  Belgians.  His  point  of  view  was  shared  by 
many  during  the  favourable  commencement  of  the  offensive  in  the  West." 

*  No  high-explosive  shells  were  provided  for  the  18-pdr.  and  13-pdr. 
field  guns ;  but  for  the  60-pdr.  and  4-5-inch  field  howitzer  a  proportion  of 
the  rounds  carried  in  the  field  was  high  explosive :  for  the  former  30  per 
cent  and  for  the  latter  one-third  (2  shrapnel  to  1  H.E.). 

^  There  was  a  service  hand-grenade,  but  it  was  a  complicated  one,  with 
a  long  shaft,  which  proved  unsuitable  in  trench  warfare,  and  a  single  one 
cost  £1:1:3. 


THE  NATIONAL  RESERVE  11 

much  of  the  subsidiary  material  required  for  siege  and 
trench  warfare,  it  was  almost  wholly  deficient.  Further,  no 
steps  had  been  taken  to  instruct  the  army  in  a  knowledge  of 
the  probable  theatre  of  war  or  of  the  German  army,  except 
by  the  publication  of  a  handbook  of  the  army  and  of  annual 
reports  on  manoeuvres  and  military  changes.  Exactly  the 
same,  however,  was  done  in  the  case  of  the  armies  of  all 
foreign  States.  The  study  of  German  military  organization 
and  methods  w^as  specifically  forbidden  at  war  games,  staff 
tours,  and  intelligence  classes,  which  would  have  provided 
the  best  opportunities  for  such  instruction. ^ 

The  last  of  the  preparations  for  defence  which  requires 
mention  here  is  the  formation  of  the  National  Reserve, 
initiated  by  private  enterprise  in  August  1910  with  the 
approval  of  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War  and  the  Army 
Council.  Its  object  was  to  register  and  organize  all  officers 
and  men  who  had  served  in  and  left  any  of  the  military  or 
naval  forces  of  the  Crown,  with  a  view  to  increasing  the 
military  strength  of  the  country  in  the  event  of  imminent 
national  danger.  The  National  Reserve  was  divided  into 
two  classes  :  ^  one  to  reinforce  existing  units  of  the 
Regular  Army,  and  the  other  to  fill  up  vacancies  in  the 
Territorial  Force,  to  strengthen  garrisons,  guard  vulner- 
able points,  or  perform  any  other  necessary  military  duties 
either  as  specialists  or  fighting  men.  By  1914,  the  National 
Reserve  numbered  about  350,000.  On  mobilization  many 
of  the  members  rejoined  military  and  naval  service  ;  the 
remainder  formed  eventually  the  nucleus  of  the  Royal 
Defence  Corps. 

As  regards  the  other  military  Forces  of  the  Empire, 
in  1907  there  was  a  conference  of  Dominion  Premiers 
in  London,  and  the  opportunity  was  seized  to  make  the 
General  Staff  an  Imperial  one.  Britain  offered  to  train 
officers  of  the  Overseas  Dominions  at  the  Staff  Colleges, 
and  to  send  out  staff  officers  of  her  own  as  servants  of  the 
Dominion  Governments.  It  was  urged  that  there  should 
be  in  all  the  forces  of  the  Empire  uniformity  of  armament 

1  Ignorance  of  the  German  Army  proved  a  serious  handicap  in  the 
early  part  of  the  campaign.  British  soldiers  imagined  that  every  German 
wore  a  spiked  helmet,  so  that  Jager,  who  wore  a  kind  of  shako,  and 
cavalrymen  in  hussar  busbies  and  lancer  caps  were  mistaken  for  French- 
men or  Belgians  ;  machine-gun  crews,  carrying  their  weapons  into  action 
with  the  trestle  legs  turned  back,  were  thought  to  be  medical  bearers 
with  stretchers,  and  were  not  fired  on. 

2  See  "  National  Reserve  Regulations,"  issued  with  Special  Army 
Order,  March  7,  1913. 


12  INTRODUCTION 

and  organization.  The  Dominions  cordially  welcomed 
these  proposals.  The  Imperial  General  Staff  was  formed 
and  unity  of  organization  was  established.  The  Dominions 
reserved  to  themselves  the  right  of  deciding  whether  to 
participate  with  their  forces  in  the  event  of  hostilities 
outside  their  own  territories. 

In  India,  the  reorganization  of  the  army  on  modern 
lines  into  nine  divisions,  six  cavalry  brigades  and  a  certain 
number  of  independent  brigades  by  Lord  Kitchener  in 
1903,  was  designed  to  meet  the  Russian  menace  and  make 
India  independent  of  assistance  from  overseas  for  twelve 
months.  As  a  consequence  of  the  Anglo-Russian  Agree- 
ment in  1907,  and  the  state  of  Indian  finances,  this  re- 
organization was  never  completed.  The  "  Army  in  India 
Committee  "  of  1912-13  recommended  that  the  field  army 
should  consist  of  seven  divisions,  five  cavalry  brigades 
and  certain  army  troops,  a  force  sufficient  to  deal  with 
Afghanistan  and  the  frontier  tribes  combined,  till  rein- 
forcements could  arrive.  This  was  the  authorized  Field 
Army  when  war  broke  out  in  1914,  but  even  this  had  not 
been  provided  with  all  its  mobilization  equipment.  No 
troops  were  maintained  for  the  specific  purpose  of  war 
outside  the  Indian  sphere.  Not  till  August  1913  was  the 
Government  of  India  invited  to  consider  the  extent  to 
which  India  would  be  prepared  to  co-operate  with  the 
Imperial  Forces  in  the  event  of  a  serious  war  between 
Britain  and  an  European  enemy.  It  was  agreed  that 
the  Army  Council  might  count  upon  two — possibly  three — 
divisions  and  one  cavalry  brigade.  Actually  in  1914, 
as  will  be  seen,  two  infantry  divisions  and  two  cavalry 
divisions  were  sent  to  France,  a  division  to  the  Persian 
Gulf,  the  equivalent  of  the  infantry  of  two  divisions  to 
Egypt,  besides  minor  detachments,  and  all  but  eight 
battalions  of  British  infantry  were  withdrawn  from  India, 
their  places  being  filled  by  British  Territorial  troops. 
But  no  measures  were  taken  to  make  India  the  Eastern 
military  base  of  the  British  Empire  by  the  provision  of 
arsenals  and  the  development  of  the  industrial  resources 
of  the  country  for  war  purposes,  except  in  certain  minor 
items. ^ 

The  supreme  direction  of  war  in  England,  which 
originally  lay  in  the  sovereign,  and  was  actually  exercised 

^  Field  artillery  ammunition  and  rifles  in  small  quantities,  small-ariit 
ammunition,  certain  vehicles,  boots,  saddles,  harness. 


THE  COMMITTEE  OF  IMPERIAL  DEFENCE     13 

by  William  III.,  passed  after  that  monarch's  death  to  the 
principal  Ministers,  and  has  remained  with  the  Cabinet,  or 
a  group  within  the  Cabinet,  ever  since.  Up  to  1904  no 
precedent  had  ever  been  set  for  the  formation  of  a  Council 
of  War  or  of  any  standing  advisory  body  for  the  Cabinet 
in  naval  and  military  matters  in  view  of  an  outbreak 
of  war. 

In  1895,  however,  a  Defence  Committee  of  the  Cabinet 
was  formed  which,  after  some  changes  in  1902,  was  finally 
turned  by  Mr.  (later  Lord)  Balfour  in  1904  into  the  Committee 
of  Imperial  Defence.  It  was  then  placed  under  the  direct 
control  of  the  Prime  Minister,  and  a  Secretariat  was  pro- 
vided to  record  its  deliberations  and  decisions,  to  collect 
information,  to  outline  plans  necessary  to  meet  certain 
contingencies,  and  to  ensure  continuity  of  policy. 

Much  good  work  was  done  by  the  Committee  in  various 
directions.  Full  measures  were  thought  out  in  1909  for 
counteracting  any  hostile  system  of  espionage  and  sabotage, 
the  Official  Secrets  Act  being  amended  in  1911  to  give  the 
Government  greater  powers.  An  amendment  of  the  Army 
Act  in  1909  also  gave  authority  to  billet  troops  in  time  of 
emergency.  Lastly,  the  essential  steps  to  be  taken  im- 
mediately upon  the  outbreak  of  war  were  all  studied  ex- 
haustively, and  a  distribution  of  the  consequent  duties 
among  the  various  departments,  even  among  individual 
officials,  was  arranged  in  the  minutest  detail,  so  that  there 
should  be  no  delay  and  no  confusion.  The  results  of  these 
preparations,  and  the  regulations  finally  laid  down,  were 
embodied  in  a  "  War-book,"  and  all  essential  documents 
were  prepared  beforehand,  so  that  they  might  be  signed 
instantly,  the  very  room  in  which  the  signature  should 
take  place  being  fixed  and  a  plan  showing  its  exact  position 
attached  to  the  documents. 

Altogether,  Britain  had  never  entered  upon  any  war 
with  anything  approaching  such  forwardness  and  fore- 
thought in  the  preparation  of  the  scanty  military  resources 
at  the  disposal  of  the  War  Office.  The  Committee  of 
Imperial  Defence  was  still,  however,  only  an  advisory  body 
possessing  no  administrative  or  executive  functions. 

From  1911  onward  the  French  and  British  Staffs  had 
worked  out  in  detail  a  scheme  for  the  landing  of  the 
Expeditionary  Force  in  France,  and  for  its  concentra- 
tion in  the  area  Maubeuge  —  Le  Cateau  —  Hirson,  but, 
though  there  was  an  "  obligation  of  honour,"  there  was 
no   definite  undertaking  to  send  the  whole   or  any  part 


14  INTRODUCTION 

of  this  force  to  any  particular  point,  or,  in  fact,  anywhere 
at  all.^ 

FRANCE 

(Sketches  1  &  2;  Maps  1  &  2) 

For  France  the  problem  of  defence  against  her  eastern 
neighbour  was  a  very  difficult  one.  The  frontier  had  no 
natural  protection,  both  banks  of  the  Rhine  and  the  crest 
of  the  Vosges  being  in  German  hands,  and  the  population 
of  France  was  not  only  smaller  than  Germany's,  but  steadily 
sinking  in  comparison.  She  first  sought  to  assist  the 
solution  of  the  problem  by  creating  great  fortified  regions 
along  her  borders,  alternating  with  selected  gaps.  Thus, 
from  the  Swiss  frontier  to  Epinal  there  were  roughly  forty 
miles  of  fortification  ;  from  Epinal  to  Toul  a  space  of 
forty  miles — the  well-known  Trouee  de  Charmes — was  left 
undefended  ;  from  Toul  to  Verdun  was  another  forty  miles 
of  fortification  ;  and  from  Verdun  to  the  Belgian  frontier 
another  gap  of  thirty  miles.  In  second  line  were  the  second- 
class  fortresses  of  Besan9on,  Dijon,  Langres,  Rheims,  and 
Laon  ;    and  in  rear  of  them  again  the  entrenched  camps  of 

^  The  first  steps  in  the  elaboration  of  the  British  scheme  were  taken 
in  1906,  as  a  result  of  a  conversation  between  Major-Gen.  (afterwards 
Lieut. -Gen.  Sir  James)  Grierson,  then  Director  of  Military  Operations  at 
the  War  Oflice,  and  Colonel  Huguet,  then  military  attache  at  the  French 
Embassy  in  London.  The  studies  were  pursued  by  General  Grierson  and 
his  successors,  Major-Gen.  (later  Lieut. -Gen.  Sir)  J.  Spencer  Ewart  and 
Br.-Gen.  (later  Field-Marshal  Sir  Henry)  Wilson,  with  the  authority  of 
the  Prime  Ministers,  Sir  Henry  Campbell-Bannerman  and  Mr  Asquith,  under 
the  reserve  that  in  no  case  should  they  constitute  an  engagement  for  the 
British  Government. 

Similar  arrangements  of  a  non-binding  nature  had  been  made  between 
the  Italian  and  German  General  Staffs  for  Italy  to  assist  Germany  in 
certain  circumstances,  by  "  strengthening  the  German  Western  Armies 
"  by  the  despatch  of  an  Army,  and  the  holding  of  French  forces,  if  only 
"  small  ones,  to  the  Alpine  frontier.  The  Italian  fleet  should,  together 
"  with  the  Austro-Hungarian,  form  a  counter- weight  to  the  French  Medi- 
*'  terranean  fleet."     (G.O.A.  i.  p.  20.) 

An  account  of  the  steps  which  led  to  the  British  General  Staff  being 
given  permission  by  the  Government  to  enter  into  relations  with  the 
French  General  Staff  will  be  found  in  "  The  Quarterly  Review  "  of  April 
1932,  in  an  article,  entitled  "  The  Entente-Cordiale  and  the  Military 
Conversations,"  by  Major-Gen.  Sir  George  Aston. 

There  was  no  arrangement  with  Belgium  of  any  kind,  her  Government 
having  made  it  clear  that  they  would  maintain  strict  neutrality,  opposing 
with  all  the  Belgian  forces  France  or  Germany,  if  either  violated  the 
frontier,  or  any  third  Power  interested  who  might  land  troops  in  Belgium, 
or  try  to  use  Belgian  territory  as  a  base  of  operations.  See  the  article 
"  The  Belgian  Conversations  of  1912  "  by  Professor  Emile  Cammaerts  in 
"  The  Contemporary  Review  "  of  July  1933. 


SKETCH  2. 


THE  CONCENTRATION  OF  THE  ARMIES. 

AUGUST    1914 


NORTH    Z,-^- 


GERMAN    ARMIES  GREEN 

fRSSCH    ARMIES  BtUe 

BBLOIAN   ARMY  BROWN 

B:B.P.  CONCKSTSATWN  ARBA  RED 

y'"'\ 

Origmal  potitimi  of  Prmch  l^ft  «n  Vlan  17  :  ; 


OBesanfOD  •'    X  I 


..J 


SCALE   OF    MILES 


20         10         O 

-fa 


±1 


80                too 
i 1 


Ordnance  Survey,  1924.. 

307S/J3. 


THE  FRENCH  ARMY  15 

Lyons  and  Paris.  There  were  no  modern  fortifications  on 
the  Franco-Belgian  frontier,  but  La  Fere,  Maubeuge,  and 
Lille  were  defended  by  old-fashioned  detached  forts. 

The  steadily  aggressive  attitude  of  Germany  justified 
the  uneasiness  of  France.  In  1882  Germany  formed  a 
Triple  Alliance  with  Augtria  and  Italy.  In  1890  France 
responded  by  an  Alliance  with  Russia.  In  1891  Germany 
emphasized  her  hostile  bearing  by  renewing  the  Triple 
Alliance ;  while  in  1899  she  rejected  the  Tsar's  proposal  for 
a  limitation  of  armaments.  In  1905,  1911,  and  1912  she 
made  important  additions  to  her  army,  raising  its  strength 
to  twenty-five  active  corps,  as  against  the  fifteen  with  which 
she  had  taken  the  field  in  1870  ;  and  behind  these  twenty- 
five  she  had  nearly  an  equal  number  of  Reserve  corps. ^ 
On  30th  June  1913  the  total  number  of  men  with  the 
colours  in  peace  was  raised  from  711,000  to  856,000  ; 
this  not  only  made  the  army  the  readier  for  an  attaque 
brusquee,  so  much  dreaded  by  the  French,  but  assured  a 
substantial  corresponding  increase  in  the  effectives  of 
reserve  formations. 

France  could  only  reply  by  reimposing  the  term  of 
three  years  with  the  colours,  which  in  1905  she  had  reduced 
to  two  years.  This  signified  an  augmentation  of  220,000 
men  to  her  peace  strength.  But,  even  so,  France  had  at 
the  outbreak  of  war,  roughly  speaking,  only  three  millions 
and  a  half  of  trained  men,  whereas  Germany  had  over 
five  millions ;  ^  and,  moreover,  Germany's  reserve  forma- 
tions were  more  completely  organized  than  those  of  the 
French. 

The  French  Army  in  peace  was  composed  of  ten  cavalry 
divisions  ;  twenty-one  army  corps,  each  corps  area  also 
furnishing  in  war  a  Reserve  division  ^  and  certain  Territorial 
brigades  ;  and  a  Colonial  Corps. 

On   mobilization,    according   to   the   plan   in   force   in 

^  See  page  21. 

2  G.O.A.,   K.U.K.,   i.   p.   219,   puts  the  French  trained   strength   at 
5,007,000,  and  total  available  at  5,940,000  ! 

F.O.A.,  i.  (i.)  p.  52,  gives  the  theoretical  mobilizable  strength  (with 
680,000  reinforcements  in  the  depots)  for  service  in  France  at  3,580,000. 
This  total  does  not  take  into  account  all  of  the  coloured  troops  :  including 
these  the  mobilizable  streng^th  realized  was  3,683,000  ("  Commission  de 
I'Armee,"  p.  203,  by  General  Pedoya,  President  of  the  Senate  Commis- 
sion of  the  Army  during  the  war). 

^  The  Reserve  divisions  were  numbered  by  adding  50  to  the  army 
corps  number  up  to  the  71st  :  thus  the  I.  Corps  area  provided  the  51st 
Reserve  Division.  The  word  "  Reserve  "  was  dropped  in  June  1915,  after 
which  date  the  divisions  were  known  by  their  numbers  only.  The  XIX. 
Corps  was  in  Algeria. 


16  INTRODUCTION 

1914/  these  forces  formed  five  Armies,  with  seven  divisions 
of  cavalry,  and  a  cavalry  corps  of  three  divisions.  The 
Reserve  divisions  were  grouped  into  pairs,  threes,  or  fours, 
and  allotted  either  to  Armies  or  defences,  or  kept  at  the 
disposal  of  General  Headquarters.^ 

Whilst  the  British  and  Germans  had  a  charger-loading 
(5  cartridges)  rifle,  the  French  infantry  had  a  magazine 
rifle  with  8  cartridges  in  the  butt ;  these  fired  it  became 
a  single-loader.  On  the  other  hand  the  French  field  gun 
was  a  true  "  Q.F.,"  with  a  rate  of  fire  almost  double  that 
of  the  British  or  German  ;  but,  again,  the  French  corps 
and  divisions  had  no  howitzers  or  heavy  guns,  and  only  a 
few  groups  of  heavy  guns  of  small  range  under  Army 
control.  In  all  a  French  Active  corps  had  28  battalions 
and  120  field  guns  ;  a  German,  24  battahons,  108  field 
guns,  and  52  howitzers  (4-2  or  5-9-inch). 
Map  2.  The  zones  of  concentration  selected  in  peace  for  the 

Sketch  2.  five  Armies  were,  commencing  as  usual  on  the  right  : 

First  Army  (General  Dubail) — Region  of  Epinal. 

Second  Army  (General  de  Castelnau) — Region  of  Nancy. 

Third  Army'(General  Ruffey) — Region  of  Verdun. 

Fifth  Army  (General  Lanrezac) — Between  Verdun  (exclusive) 

and  Mezieres,  with  a  detachment  east  of  the  INIeuse. 
Fourth  Army  (General  de  Langle  de  Gary) — In  general  reserve 

in  region  Sainte  Menehould — Commercy. 
On  either  flank  was  a  group  of  Reserve  divisions  : 

On  the  right — a  group  of  four  Reserve  divisions — Region 
of  Belfort. 

On  the  left — a  group  of  three  Reserve  divisions  (General 
Valabregue) — Vervins. 

The  French  Staff  in  choosing  the  areas  of  concentration 
were  in  face  of  the  following  facts.  At  Metz  there  was  an 
immense  German  entrenched  camp  touching  the  frontier, 
and  connected  by  four  main  lines  of  railway  with  the 
heart  of  Germany.  From  this  a  sudden  blow — the  attaque 
brusqiiee — could  be  easily  struck  with  all  the  force  of 
perfect  organization  ;  it  was  imperative  to  take  measures 
to  parry  it.  On  the  other  hand,  the  German  school  of 
strategy  favoured  envelopment  from  one  or  both  flanks. 
This  in  a  war  with  France  signified,  indeed,  violation  either 

1  Known  as  Plan  XVII.  ;  the  text  is  given  in  Appendix  9.  The  eariier 
plans  and  the  origin  of  Plan  XVII.  will  be  found  in  F.O.A.,  i.,  chapters  i. 
and  ii. 

*  For  the  Order  of  Battle  and  organization  of  the  French  Armies  see 
Appendices  3  and  4. 


THE  FRENCH  PLAN  17 

of  Belgian  or  of  Swiss  neutrality,  or  of  both  ;  but  Germany- 
was  not  likely  to  be  squeamish  about  such  matters.  Such 
violation  might  not  go  beyond  a  peaceable  passage  of 
troops  across  a  corner  of  the  neutral  territory,  yet  still 
might  suffice  for  the  aggressor's  purpose  of  turning  a  flank. 

To  meet  menaces  so  different  in  kind  as  direct  attack 
in  the  centre  and  envelopment  on  the  flanks,  the  French 
General  Staff  decided  to  take  the  offensive  and  to  con- 
centrate facing  the  Eastern  frontier,  trusting  to  fortifica- 
tions and  to  covering  troops  to  gain  sufficient  time  to 
move  the  mass  of  the  army  elsewhere  if  required.  It  was 
intended  to  attack  as  soon  as  possible  with  all  forces 
united  :  the  First  and  Second  Armies  south  of  Metz,  and 
the  Fifth  north  of  it  ;  the  Third  Army  was  to  connect 
these  two  main  attacks  and  arrange  for  the  investment  of 
Metz  as  they  progressed.  The  employment  of  the  Fourth 
Army  depended  on  the  action  of  the  enemy  ;  if  the  Germans 
moved  into  Luxembourg  and  Belgium,  it  was  to  co-operate 
with  the  Fifth  Army  ;  if  the  enemy  merely  covered  the 
common  frontier,  it  was  to  go  to  the  support  of  the  right 
attack.  A  detachment  of  the  First  Army  (one  corps 
and  one  cavalry  division)  was  detailed  in  the  plan  to 
carry  out  a  special  operation  on  the  extreme  right  in 
Alsace,  with  the  object  of  holding  any  enemy  forces 
which  might  attempt  to  advance  on  the  western  slopes 
of  the  Vosges,  and  of  assisting  in  the  removal  of  that 
part  of  the  population  which  had  remained  faithful  to 
France.  It  was  hoped  by  the  general  offensive  movement 
at  any  rate  to  dislocate  the  plans  of  the  enemy,  wrest  the 
initiative  from  him,  and,  if  he  were  moving  through 
Belgium,  strike  a  mortal  blow  at  his  communications. 

No  provision,  it  will  be  noticed,  was  made  to  meet  an 
envelopment  carried  out  through  Belgium  west  of  the 
Meuse,  or  to  cover  the  gap  between  the  western  flank  of 
the  Fifth  Army  and  the  sea,  in  which  there  were  only  local 
Territorial  troops  and  a  few  old  fortresses  incapable  of 
offering  serious  resistance  to  any  invader.  The  informa- 
tion at  the  disposal  of  the  French  General  Staff  appeared 
to  indicate  that  the  Germans  would  attack  from  Metz,  and 
had  not  sufficient  troops  to  extend  their  front  west  of  the 
Meuse.  Beyond  arranging  for  an  alternative  concentration 
of  the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  should  the  enemy  enter 
Luxembourg  and  Belgium,  there  was  no  preparation 
against  a  wide  enveloping  movement. 

On  mobilization,  General  Joffre,  vice-president  du  Cori' 

VOL.  I  c 


18 


INTRODUCTION 


seil  supSrieur  de  la  guerre  et  chef  de  VJ^tat  Major  General, 
was  appointed  Commandant  en  Chef  of  the  French  Armies, 
with  General  Behn  as  Chief  of  the  Staff. 

The  approximate  strength  of  the  Armies  (with  the 
Reserve  divisions  on  the  flanks  included  in  the  totals  of 
the  nearest  Army)  was,  in  round  numbers,  after  certain 
exchanges  had  taken  place  (viz.  the  transfer  of  two  corps 
and  two  Reserve  divisions  from  Fifth  Army  to  Fourth,  of 
one  corps  from  Second  to  Fifth,  etc.)  ^ : — 


First  Army 
Second  Army 
Third  Army 
Fourth  Army 
Fifth  Army 


256,000  men 
200,000     „ 
168,000 
193,000 
254,000 


1,071,000  men 


BELGIUM « 

In  1914  the  Belgian  Army  consisted  of  a  Field  Army 
organized  in  six  divisions  and  a  cavalry  division,  and 
fortress  troops  which  formed  the  garrisons  of  Antwerp, 
Liege  and  Namur.  Antwerp  was  the  great  fortress  of 
Belgium,  the  final  refuge  and  rallying  point  of  her  forces 
and  population  in  case  of  invasion  by  a  powerful  enemy. 
Its  defences  originally  consisted  of  a  strong  enceinte,  i.e. 
a  continuous  inner  ring  of  fortification,  and  a  girdle  of 
forts,  some  two  miles  from  the  town,  finished  in  1868. 
Though  a  second  girdle  of  forts  and  redoubts  outside  the 
first  had  been  gradually  added  from  1882  onwards,  the  line 
was  incomplete,  there  were  several  gaps  and  intervals  in 
it,  and  it  was  on  the  average  only  some  eight  miles  from 
the  town,  an  altogether  insufficient  distance  under  modern 
conditions.  Nor  was  the  construction  of  the  forts,  although 
improvements  were  in  progress,  capable  of  resisting  modern 
heavy  artillery;  notwithstanding  that  the  guns  were  pro- 
tected by  armour  (cupolas  and  tourelles),  the  fact  that  they 
were  inside  the  forts,  which  were  conspicuously  upstanding, 
and  not  in  well  concealed  batteries  outside,  made  them  easy 

1  See  footnote,  page  40. 

*  The  details  of  the  operations  of  the  Belgian  Army  are  taken  from 
the  official  account  :  "  L' Action  de  I'Armee  Beige.  Periode  du  31  juillet 
au  31  dccembre  1914,"  which  has  since  been  translated  as  "  Military 
"  Operations  of  Belgium.  Report  compiled  by  the  Belgian  General  Statf 
"  for  the  period  July  31st  to  December  31st,  1914  "  (London,  Collingridge, 
Is.  net).     For  the  Order  of  Battle  see  Appendix  5. 


THE  BELGIAN  ARMY  19 

targets.  The  same  remarks  as  regards  construction  apply- 
to  the  defences  of  Liege  and  Namur  ;  these  fortresses  were 
"  barrier  forts  and  bridgeheads  "  on  the  Meuse ;  they 
constituted  the  first  line  of  Belgium's  resistance,  and  were 
designed  to  guard  the  approaches  into  Belgium  from  the 
east  and  south-east,  and  hinder  any  force  from  crossing 
the  Meuse  either  from  France  into  Germany  or  Germany 
into  France.  They  were  never  intended  to  be  defended 
a  outrance  and  depended  on  field  troops  for  the  defence  of 
the  intervals  between  the  forts.  At  Huy  on  the  Meuse 
between  Namur  and  Liege  there  was  an  ancient  fort,  which 
at  best  might  secure  sufficient  time  for  the  destruction  of 
the  railway  bridges  and  tunnel  situated  there. 

The  reorganization  of  the  Belgian  Army  authorized  by 
the  Government  in  1912,  had  barely  begun  to  take  effect.  In 
accordance  with  this  a  force  of  350,000  men  was  to  be  formed: 
150,000  for  the  Field  Army,  130,000  for  the  fortress  garri- 
sons, and  70,000  for  reserve  and  auxihary  troops.  But 
these  numbers  would  not  in  the  ordinary  course  have  been 
available  until  1926.  Actually  in  August  1914  only 
117,000  could  be  mobihzed  for  the  Field  Army,  and  a 
smaller  proportion  for  the  other  categories. 

The  six  divisions  were  stationed  in  peace  so  that  at 
short  notice  they  could  quickly  confront  any  enemy,  were 
he  Germany,  France,  Great  Britain  or  Holland :  1st  Division 
around  Ghent  ;  2nd  Division,  Antwerp  ;  3rd  Division 
around  Liege  ;  4th  Division,  Namur  and  Charleroi  ;  5th 
Division  around  Mons ;  6th  Division,  Brussels  ;  and 
Cavalry  Division,  Brussels.  Thus  the  1st  Division  faced 
England  ;  the  3rd,  Germany  ;  the  4th  and  5th,  France  ; 
and  they  were  intended  to  act  as  general  advanced  guards 
as  occasion  arose  and  gain  time  for  the  movements  of  the 
other  divisions  to  the  threatened  area. 

On  the  ordinary  peace  footing  only  part  of  the  recruit 
contingent  was  with  the  colours,  so  that  in  case  of  danger 
of  war,  the  Belgian  Army  had  first  to  recall  men  on  un- 
limited leave,  in  order  to  raise  its  forces  to  "  reinforced 
peace  establishment,"  the  ordinary  strength  of  the  units  of 
the  Continental  Powers,  and  then  to  complete  the  numbers 
by  mobilizing  reservists.  Thus  not  only  was  Belgium 
normally  less  ready  than  most  nations,  but  she  was  in  the 
throes  of  reorganization,  and  could  not  put  into  the  field 
even  as  many  men  as  the  British  Regular  Army. 


20  INTRODUCTION 


GERIHANYi 


From  1815  to  1860,  the  Prussian  Army  had  practically 
remained  stationary  in  numbers,  with  a  peace  strength  of 
150,000  men  formed  in  eight  Army  Corps,  maintained  by 
a  yearly  contingent  of  40,000  recruits,  who  served  three 
years  with  the  colours.  One  of  the  first  acts  of  Wilhelm  I. 
on  coming  to  the  throne  in  January  1860  was,  in  opposition 
to  the  wishes  of  his  Legislature,  to  raise  the  annual  con- 
tingent to  63,000,  and  the  peace  strength  to  215,000. 
From  thence  onwards  there  was  a  steady  increase  of  the 
Prussian  military  forces. 

The  war  of  1866  made  Prussia  head  of  the  North 
German  Confederation,  whilst  Hesse-Darmstadt,  Wiirt- 
temberg,  Bavaria  and  Baden  were  bound  to  place  their 
armies  at  the  disposal  of  Prussia  in  time  of  war.  In  1870, 
in  addition  to  her  original  eight  corps,  she  was  able  after 
arrangements  with  the  other  States  to  put  into  the  field 
the  Guard,  IX.,  X.  (Hanoverian),  XI.,  and  XII.  (Saxon), 
and  /.  and  II.  Bavarian  Corps,  and  eventually  the  XIII. 
(Wiirttemherg)  and  XIV.  (Baden),  with  a  war-strength  of 
roughly  950,000. 

The  formation  of  the  German  Empire  in  1871  made 
expansion  still  easier,  for  by  the  Constitution  one  per  cent 
of  the  population  could  be  in  training  under  arms.  The 
subsequent  peace  strengths  were  ^ : — 


Cavalry 

Other 

One  Year 

Divisions. 

Brigades. 

Offlcera. 

N.C.0'8. 

Ranks. 

Volunteers 

1875 

• 

37 

38 

17,213 

53,956 

347,703 

7,000 

1882 

37 

38 

18,134 

57,694 

369,580 

9,000 

1888 

39 

39 

19,294 

61,867 

406,542 

10,000 

1890 

43 

45 

20,285 

65,001 

421,982 

8,000 

1893 

43 

46 

22,458 

77,864 

479,229 

9,000 

1898 

43 

46 

23,176 

78,237 

479,229 

9,000 

1902 

48 

46 

24,292 

80,985 

495,500 

11,000 

1910 

48 

46 

25,722 

87,071 

504,446 

13,145 

1911 

48 

46 

25,880 

88,292 

507,253 

14,000 

1912 

50 

51 

27,267 

92,347 

531,004 

14,350 

1914, 

Aug. 

50 

55 

30,459 

107,794 

647,793 

16,000 

(Sanctione( 

i) 

50 

55 

32,000 

110,000 

661,500 

^  For  the  Order  of  Battle  and  organization  of  the  German  Forces  see 
Appendices  6  and  7. 

^  G.O.A.,  K.U.K.,  i.  and  tables  in  the  Appendix  volume. 

The  largest  increase,  it  will  be  noticed,  came  after  1912.  A  project 
was  put  forward  at  the  end  of  that  year  by  the  Chief  of  the  General  Staff, 
who  stated,  in  view  of  the  Balkan  War,  which  had  just  broken  out,  that 
"  the  Army  was  not  strong  enough  for  the  duties  required  of  it  " — which 
were  to  carry  out  the  Schlieffen  plan  of  campaign.     The  increase  was 


THE  GERMAN  ARMY  21 

The  approximate  mobilizable  strength  was  : — 

Trained  officers  and  men  .          .          .     4,300,000    (5,020,700)1 
Partially  trained       .          .          ,          .         100,000  — 

Untrained 5,500,000     (5,474,000) 


9,900,000  (10,494,700) 


The  Army  was  organized  into  25  Active  army  corps  Plate  i. 
(50  divisions) — the  Guard,  I.  to  XXI.,  and  /.,  //.,  ///. 
Bavarian  ;  and  in  each  army  corps  district  cadres  were 
provided  to  form  certain  Reserve  divisions  (32),  Ersatz 
divisions  (7),  Landwehr  brigades  and  regiments  (equivalent 
to  16  divisions),  from  the  supernumeraries  in  the  depots. 
There  were  also  11  cavalry  divisions. 

The  plan  on  which  this  great  force  would  be  used  on 
the  Eastern  and  Western  fronts  could  only  be  surmised. 
It  will,  so  far  as  it  is  known,  be  given  later  ^  after  the 
opening  moves  of  the  campaign  have  been  developed  and 
described. 

Service  in  the  German  Army  was  divided  into  : — 
service  in  the  Active  (or  Standing)  Army  (two  years, 
but  three  in  the  cavalry  and  horse  artillery)  ;  service 
in  the  Reserve  (five  years,  but  four  in  the  cavalry  and 
horse  artillery)  ;  service  in  the  Landwehr  (eleven  years). 
The  Landsturm  included  youths  between  17  and  20,  too 
young  for  service  in  the  Army,  and  trained  and  untrained 
men  between  39  and  45,  who  were  thus  over  the  ordinary 
military  age. 

The  original  Reserve  corps  which  took  part  in  the  August 
offensive  were  formed  mainly  of  Reserve  men  super- 
numerary to  the  requirements  of  the  Active  Army,  with 
some  Landwehr  ;  but  the  Guard  Reserve  Corps  contained 
an  Active  division,  and  others,  e.g.  the  V.,  VI.,  VII.  and 
IX.,  each  contained  an  Active  brigade,  as  the  Active  corps 
of  these  numbers  had  each  in  peace  time  an  extra  brigade  ; 
others  had  similarly  an  Active  regiment.  Soon  after 
declaration  of  war,  additional  Reserve  divisions  and  corps 
were  built  up  of  volunteers  (mainly  youths  under  full 
military  age  and  men  not  yet  called  up,  etc.),  with  a  sub- 
sanctioned  by  the  Reichstag  in  June  1913.  In  the  spring  of  1914  a  decision 
was  made  to  introduce  complete  universal  service,  no  one  escaping  it,  in 
1916.  This  would  probably  have  doubled  the  strength  of  the  German 
Army. 

1  The  figures  in  brackets  are  from  G.O.A.,  K.u.K.,  i.  p.  219  ;  the  original 
ones  were  calculated  before  the  war  by  the  British  Intelligence  Branch. 

*  See  page  56. 


22  INTRODUCTION 

stantial  nucleus  of  about  25  per  cent  of  trained  men  of 
the  older  classes.^ 

The  Ersatz  brigades  and  divisions  of  1914  were  not 
formed  from  untrained  men  of  the  Ersatz  Reserve,^  but 
from  trained  men  supernumerary  to  the  numbers  required 
for  the  Active  and  Reserve  formations.  They  were 
organized  like  the  Reserve  formations  but  had  not  the 
full  establishment  of  machine  guns,  cavalry,  or  artillery, 
and  were  entirely  without  field  kitchens,  medical  units, 
train  and  ammunition  columns.  They  were  therefore  not 
equivalent  to  other  brigades  and  divisions  in  open  warfare. 

The  Landwehr  units  were  formed  of  men  who  had  com- 
pleted seven  years  with  the  Active  Army  and  Reserve,  and 
were  under  39  years  of  age. 

As  the  war  went  on,  the  significance  of  the  various 
classifications  largely  disappeared,  and  Active,  Reserve, 
Ersatz  and  Landwehr  divisions  contained  men  of  all 
categories. 

The  French  were  at  the  outbreak  of  war  dressed  in  their 
peace-time  old-fashioned  uniforms  —  the  infantry  in  blue, 
with  red  trousers,  and  kepi  ;  the  officers  conspicuous  by 
reason  of  their  shorter  coats  ;  "  horizon-blue  "  was  not  intro- 
duced until  1915.  The  Belgian  infantry  wore  dark  blue,  with 
blue-grey  trousers,  adopting  khaki  in  1915.  The  Germans 
wore  "  field-grey,"  with  a  cover  of  that  colour  on  the  spiked 
helmet  or  other  cavalry  or  Jdger  head-dress.  The  British 
were  of  course  in  khaki,  and  wore  the  flat  peaked  cap. 

1  "  Ypres  1914,"  p.  5. 

*  This  consisted  of  men  temporarily  unfit,  or  fit  and  liable  for  military 
service  but  not  called  up  for  training  either  because  they  were  super- 
numerary to  the  annual  contingent,  or  for  family  reasons,  or  on  account  of 
minor  physical  defects. 


CHAPTER  I 

THE    OUTBREAK    OF    WAR 

(Sketches  1,  2,  3,  4  &  5  ;  Maps  1,  2  &  5) 

The  record  of  the  negotiations  and  of  the  diplomatic  corre- 
spondence and  conversations  which  took  place  after  the 
assassination  of  the  Archduke  Franz  Ferdinand  of  Austria 
and  his  Consort  at  Serajevo  on  the  28th  June  1914  until 
the  outbreak  of  war  is  available  in  an  official  publication.^ 
In  this  work  the  efforts  of  the  British  Government  to  bring 
about  mediation  and  their  determination  to  take  no  step  that 
would  contribute  to  precipitate  war  are  made  abundantly 
clear.  It  is  therefore  unnecessary  here  to  allude  to  diplo- 
matic proceedings,  except  to  show  how  military  preparations 
were  affected  by  them. 

On  the  27th  July,  the  British  Government  judged  the 
situation  to  be  sufficiently  serious  to  warrant  them  in 
countermanding  the  dispersal,  then  in  progress,  of  the 
Home  Fleets  at  the  end  of  the  exercises  at  sea  which  had 
followed  a  test  mobilization.  At  5  p.m.  on  the  28th,  on 
which  day  Austria-Hungary  declared  war  on  Serbia,  the 
First  Fleet  was  ordered  to  proceed  to  its  preliminary  war 
station  in  the  North  ;  ^  on  the  29th,  at  2  p.m.,  the 
Government  further  ordered  the  precautionary  measures 

^  "  British  Documents  on  the  Origin  of  the  War,"  xi.,  edited  by  G.  P. 
Gooch  and  Harold  Temperley  (H.M.  Stationery  Office).  As  narratives 
and  as  commentaries  on  these  documents  should  be  read  :  "  The  History 
"  of  Twelve  Days,  July  24th  to  August  4th  1914.  Being  an  Account  of  the 
"  Negotiations  Preceding  the  Outbreak  of  War,  based  on  Official  Pub- 
"  lications,"  by  J.  W.  Headlam  (T.  Fisher  Unwin),  and  "  The  Outbreak 
"of  the  War  1914-1918  :  A  Narrative  based  mainly  on  British  Official 
"  Documents,"  by  Professor  Sir  Charles  Oman  (H.M.  Stationery  Office). 

"  The  naval  precautions  taken  will  be  found  fully  described  in  "  The 
History  of  the  War:  Naval  Operations,"  i.,  by  Sir  Julian  Corbett. 

According  to  the  protocol  in  Document  No.  10855  of  the  official  diplo- 
matic papers  of  the  Austro-Hungarian  Ministry  of  Foreign  Affairs,  pub- 
lished in  eight  volumes  under  the  title  of  "  Osterreich-Ungarns  Aussen- 
poUtik  vor  der  Bosnischen   Krise  1908  bis   zum   Kriegsausbruch  1914," 

23 


24  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

arranged  by  the  General  Staff  to  meet  an  immediate 
prospect  of  war,  to  be  put  in  force.  These  affected  the 
Regular  troops  only,  and  included  the  recall  of  officers 
and  men  on  leave  and  furlough,  and  the  manning  of  all 
coast  defences. 

The  Belgian  Government  decided  to  place  their  Army 
upon  its  "  reinforced  peace  footing."  ^ 

On  the  same  day,  the  29th,  the  British  Ambassador 
at  Berlin  was  asked  by  the  German  Chancellor  to  give 
assurance  of  England's  neutrality  if  Russia  should  attack 
Austria  and  an  European  conflagration  were  to  ensue.  To 
this  significant  enquiry  Sir  Edward  Grey,  the  Minister  for 
Foreign  Affairs,  responded  on  the  30th  by  a  refusal  to 
entertain  the  proposal.  Russia  on  this  day  issued  orders 
for  the  mobilization  of  her  four  Southern  Armies ;  and 
Germany  threatened  that  she  would  begin  mobilization 
unless  Russia  ceased  hers.  News  was  also  received  of  the 
Austrian  bombardment  of  Belgrade.  In  order  to  avoid  the 
possibility  of  a  frontier  incident  the  French  Government 
ordered  that  no  individual,  no  patrol,  should  under  any 
pretext  pass  a  line  between  Hussigny  (on  the  Luxembourg 
frontier,  east  of  Longwy)  and  Delle  (on  the  Swiss  frontier, 
south-east  of  Belfort),  described  by  a  precise  enumeration 
of  localities.  This  line  was  on  an  average  10  kilometres 
inside  the  frontier.^ 

on  the  27th  July  Count  Berchtold,  the  Foreign  Minister,  told  Kaiser 
Franz  Joseph,  in  order  to  induce  him  to  sign  the  declaration  of  war  against 
Serbia,  that,  "  according  to  a  report  from  the  IV.  Corps,  Serbian  troops 
"  have  fired  from  Danube  steamers  on  the  troops  near  Temesvar,  and,  on 
"  this  being  replied  to,  a  general  action  developed.  Hostilities  are  there- 
"  fore  actually  opened." 

In  the  draft  of  the  declaration  of  war  this  incident  was  given  as  one  of 
the  principal  causes  of  its  despatch.  Count  Berchtold,  having  obtained 
the  Kaiser's  signature,  struck  out  the  paragraph,  reporting  to  him  on  the 
29th  (Document  No.  11015)  that  he  had  done  so,  as  "the  reports  of  the 
"  fighting  near  Temes  Kirbin  have  not  been  confirmed.  On  tiie  contrary, 
"  only  an  isolated  report  of  trifling  firing  near  Gradiste  [equally  false]." 
Ilerr  Emil  Ludwig  in  "  July  1914"  asserts,  with  regard  to  the  outbreak  of 
war,  that  in  Germany,  "  of  the  2.3  documents  susceptible  of  falsification, 
"  the  Government  falsified  18,"  but  "  the  worst  liar  was  Count  Berchtold." 

^  See  page  19. 

2  F.O.A.  i.  (i.)  p.  76.  This  particular  order  was  repeated  on  31st  July 
with  the  addition  : — 

"  This  proliibition  applies  to  the  cavalry  as  well  as  to  the  other  arms. 
"  No  patrol,  no  reconnoitring  party,  no  post,  no  individual,  must  be  east 
"  of  the  said  line.  Anyone  who  crosses  it  will  be  liable  to  court-martial. 
"  It  is  only  permitted  to  transgress  this  order  in  case  of  a  very  definite 
"attack."  {Ide7n,p.  81.)  The  restriction  was  withdrawn  at  2  p.m.  on 
the  2nd  August  on  account  of  German  violation  of  the  French  frontier. 
{Idem,  p.  85.) 


FRANCE  AND  GERMANY  MOBILIZE  25 

At  1  P.M.  on  the  30th  July  the  "  Berhn  Lokalanzeiger  "  30-3iJuly 
issued  a  special  number  (Extrablatt),  announcing  that  i^i'*- 
mobilization  had  been  ordered.  The  statement  was  soon 
contradicted,  but  it  had  been  telegraphed  to  Petrograd  and 
at  6  P.M.,  before  contradiction  arrived,  Russia  ordered 
general  mobilization.^  On  the  31st  Austria  followed  suit, 
and  decreed  the  full  mobilization  of  her  forces,  whereupon 
Germany  made  a  formal  proclamation  of  "  Imminent 
Danger  of  War  "  {drohende  Kriegsgefahr),  which  enabled 
measures  similar  to  those  of  the  British  "  Precautionary 
Period  "  to  be  taken.^  At  the  same  time  Germany  pre- 
sented an  ultimatum  to  Russia  to  the  effect  that,  unless 
she  ceased  mobilization  within  twelve  hours,  Germany 
herself  would  mobilize  upon  both  frontiers.  Significantly, 
Turkey  also  ordered  mobilization  on  the  31st  July.^  Sir 
Edward  Grey,  on  the  same  day,  sent  an  identic  request  to 
Germany  and  France  enquiring  whether  they  would  respect 
Belgian  neutrality.  France  immediately  answered  with  an 
unequivocal  affirmative ;  Germany,  however,  sent  only  an 
evasive  reply  ;  and  on  the  1st  August  both  France  and 
Germany  ordered  general  mobilization. 

The  beginning  of  mobilization  in  France  raised  a  serious 

1  See  Renouvin,  "  Les  origines  immediates  de  la  Guerre,"  p.  146  ; 
General  Danilov  (Quartermaster  General  of  the  Russian  Army),  "  Russland 
in  Weltkrieg  1914-15,"  pp.  25-6  ;  General  Suchomlinov  (VVar  Minister), 
"  Erinnerungen,"  pp.  365-7. 

2  On  the  proclamation  of  drohende  Kriegsgefahr,  the  following  pre- 
cautionary measures  had  to  be  taken  in  all  Army  Corps  districts  : — 

Protection  of  important  railway  structures  : — bridges,  tunnels,  etc. 

Recall  from  leave  of  all  members  of  the  Active  army. 

Recall  of  troops,  if  away,  to  their  garrisons. 

Control  of  railway  and  other  traffic. 

Execution  of  the  measures  laid  down  for  protection  of  the  frontier. 

Move  of  garrisons  of  active  troops  and  fighting  equipment  to  the  islands 
of  the  North  Sea  coast. 

In  addition,  in  the  frontier  districts  : — 

Guard  of  railway  lines  ;  defence  of  large  bridges  and  important  railway 
junctions,  air-ship  sheds  and  establishments  important  to  aircraft  and 
radio-telegraphy  against  attempts  at  demolition,  including  attacks  by  air- 
craft ;  removal  of  sick  into  the  interior  of  the  country. 

"  If  a  hostile  attack  is  made  before  definite  mobilization,  or  it  is  evident 
'  that  such  an  attack  is  imminent,  the  Army  Corps  commanders  must  take 
'  all  necessary  measures  to  remove  inland  from  the  threatened  districts  and 
'  protect  all  men  liable  to  service,  and  all  men  found  fit  for  military  service, 
'  as  well  as  all  serviceable  horses.  They  must  also,  as  far  as  possible, 
'  remove  all  material  resources  from  reach  of  the  enemy,  particularly 
'  depots  of  supplies,  the  monies  of  the  State,  petrol.  In  case  of  necessity 
'  measures  must  be  taken  to  destroy  them."  (Kindly  furnished  by  the 
Reichsarchiv.) 

3  The  "  1st  day  of  mobilization  "  was  the  3rd  August.  The  secret 
treaty  of  alliance  between  Turkey  and  Germany  was  signed  at  Berlin  on 
the  2nd  August. 


26  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

1  Aug.  question  for  Great  Britain.  There  was,  it  is  true,  no 
1914.  definite  agreement  or  understanding  that  she  should  send 
assistance  to  France,  and  the  British  Government  was  free 
to  decide,  untrammelled,  for  peace  or  war.  But  a  scheme 
had  been  elaborated,  in  the  event  of  certain  contingencies, 
between  the  General  Staffs  of  the  two  countries  ;  and  an 
essential  point  in  this  scheme  was  that  the  first  movement 
of  the  British  advanced  parties,  stores  and  so  forth,  should 
begin  on  the  first  day  of  mobilization.  Assuming  this  coin- 
cidence of  movement  and  mobilization,  it  was  reckoned 
that  six  divisions — or  four,  if  six  could  not  be  spared — 
one  cavalry  division  and  one  cavalry  brigade  could  be 
transported  from  Great  Britain  to  concentration  areas 
between  Avesnes  and  Le  Cateau,  and  would  be  ready  to 
advance  thence  on  the  fifteenth  day  after  the  order  for 
mobilization  had  been  issued. 

That  the  British  mobilization,  if  it  should  take  place  at 
all,  would  be  later  than  the  French  was  now  obvious.  The 
British  General  Staff  therefore  suggested  that  measures 
might  be  taken  to  ensure  that,  if  mobilization  should  come 
after  all,  movement  to  France  of  the  advanced  parties, 
which  could  be  warned  at  once,  should  be  simultaneous 
with  the  issue  of  the  order  for  it.  Another  important 
measure  was  the  guarding  of  the  lines  of  railway  to  the 
ports  of  embarkation.  This  duty  had  been  assigned  to 
certain  units  of  the  Territorial  Force  ;  but  these  were 
about  to  proceed  to  camp  for  their  annual  training  ;  and, 
unless  the  orders  for  that  training  were  cancelled,  there 
might  be  delay  in  the  despatch  of  the  Expeditionary  Force. 
The  Government  considered,  however,  that  the  counter- 
manding of  the  orders  for  Territorial  training  would  be 
construed  as  not  less  menacing  than  the  order  for  mobiliza- 
tion itself  ;  and  they  shrank  from  any  measure  which  might 
seem  to  extinguish  the  last  hope  of  peace. 

At  12  noon  on  the  1st  August,  the  German  ultimatum 
to  Russia  expired,  and  a  general  conflagration  became 
inevitable.^  The  Cabinet  at  2  p.m.  on  the  2nd  cancelled 
the  orders   for  Territorial  training  and  at   6   p.m.  those 

^  The  German  declaration  of  war  was  delivered  by  the  Ambassador  at 
Petrograd,  Count  Pourtales,  at  7  p.m  on  the  1st  August  ;  he  at  the  same 
time  demanded  his  passports  (Kautsky's  "  Die  deutsche  Dokumente  zum 
Kriegsausbruch,"  iii.  pp.  50  and  83,  which  is  confirmed  by  the  Russian 
Orange  Book).  The  Russian  Foreign  Minister,  M.  Sazonov,  said  to  him, 
"  You  could  have  prevented  war  by  a  word  ;  you  would  not  do  so.  In 
"  all  my  efforts  to  preserve  peace,  I  received  not  the  slightest  help  from 
"  you." 


ACTION  OF  BELGIUM  27 

for  the  Army  manoeuvres,  but  still  issued  no  orders  for  2  Aug. 
mobilization.^  The  Navy  was  quite  ready  for  active  service,  ^^i'*- 
and  the  French  Ambassador  was  given  the  assurance  that 
"  if  the  German  fleet  comes  into  the  Channel  or  through 
"  the  North  Sea  to  undertake  hostile  operations  against  the 
"  French  coasts  or  shipping,  the  British  Fleet  Avill  give  all 
"  the  protection  in  its  power."  Beyond  this  conditional 
promise  of  naval  intervention  the  Cabinet  would  not  go 
without  consulting  Parliament.  Parliament  was  consulted 
on  the  following  day,  the  3rd  August ;  but  in  the  meanwhile 
a  most  momentous  event  had  occurred. 

Faithful  to  the  obligations  imposed  upon  her  by  treaty,  Sketch  i. 
Belgium  on  the  1st  August  had  ordered  her  forces  to  be  ^^^P  ^' 
mobilized,  and  was  preparing  to  resist  violation  of  her 
territory  from  any  quarter  whatsoever  ;  but  at  seven  o'clock 
in  the  evening  of  the  2nd  the  German  Minister  at  Brussels 
presented  a  Note  to  the  Belgian  Government,  requesting 
a  reply  within  twelve  hours.  This  Note  had  been  drawn 
up  by  the  Great  General  Staff  as  early  as  26th  July,  and 
despatched  under  seal  to  the  German  Minister  at  Brussels 
on  the  29th,  with  orders  that  it  was  not  to  be  opened 
pending  further  instructions.  It  set  forth  that  the  German 
Government  had  certain  intelligence  of  the  intention  of  the 
French  forces  to  march  on  the  Meuse  by  Givet  and  Namur, 
and,  in  view  of  this  attack,  requested  free  and  unresisted 
ingress  for  the  German  troops  into  Belgian  territory.  The 
Belgian  Government  replied  that  they  would  repel  any  attempt 
either  of  France  or  Germany  upon  Belgium ;  and  they  also 
declined  the  help  of  France  against  any  German  encroachment 
until  they  should  have  made  formal  appeal  to  the  Powers, 
Prussia  among  them,  which  had  guaranteed  Belgian  neutrality. 

Other  important  events  on  the  2nd  August  were  that 
German  troops  crossed  the  Polish  frontier,  broke  also  into 
France  at  four  different  points,  ^  and  entered  the  territory 
of  Luxembourg.^ 

^  At  10  A.M.  on  the  2nd  the  leaders  of  the  Unionist  party  despatched  by 
special  messenger  to  the  Prime  Minister  a  letter  assuring  the  Government 
"  of  the  united  support  of  the  Opposition  in  all  measures  required  by 
"  England's  intervention  in  the  war." 

^  They  are  enumerated  in  F.O.A.  i.  (i.),  p.  83,  which  adds  that  "  at 
"  Petit  Croix  German  cyclists  fired  on  French  custom  house  officers." 

According  to  the  lieichsarchiv  :  "  There  were  transgressions  of  the 
"  frontier  by  small  detachments,  contrary  to  the  will  of  the  High  Command." 

^  By  the  treaty  of  1867  Prussia  guaranteed  the  perpetual  neutrality  of 
Luxembourg  ;  by  the  Convention  of  ]  902  Germany  re-insured  the  neutrality 
and  contracted  that  the  railways  in  the  Grand  Duchy  which  she  exploited 
should  not  be  used  for  the  transport  of  her  troops. 


28  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

3  Aug.  Sir  Edward  Grey  had  no  accurate  information  as  to  the 
1914.  exact  nature  of  the  German  ultimatum  to  Belgium  when  he 
met  the  House  of  Commons  on  the  3rd  August.  He  was 
aware,  however,  of  the  crude  fact  that  an  ultimatum  had 
been  tendered,  and,  whilst  coming  down  to  the  House,  he 
had  been  informed  that  King  Albert  had  telegraphed  to 
King  George  invoking  England's  diplomatic  intervention 
to  safeguard  the  integrity  of  Belgium.  He  presented,  in 
due  order,  the  course  of  action  he  had  pursued  and  the 
motives  dictating  it.  The  House  of  Commons,  as  it 
followed  him,  applauded  his  decision  not  to  commit  the 
country  to  armed  intervention  on  account  of  the  Serbian 
quarrel,  but  approved  the  conditional  promise  of  the  Fleet's 
aid  to  France,  and  grew  enthusiastic  when  it  heard  that 
England  would  be  true  to  her  engagements  to  uphold  the 
integrity  of  Belgium. 

No  resolution  followed  upon  the  speech  of  the  Secretary 
of  State  for  Foreign  Affairs.  After  the  adjournment  which 
followed  it,  towards  7  p.m.,  he  was  able  to  read  to  the 
House  full  information,  received  from  the  Belgian  Legation, 
of  the  German  Note  that  had  been  presented  in  Brussels. 
It  left  no  doubt  that  a  German  attack  was  about  to  take 
place,  if  indeed  it  had  not  already  begun. 

The  immediate  measures  taken  were  to  announce  that 
a  moratorium  would  be  proclaimed  and  that  the  Govern- 
ment would  undertake  the  responsibility  of  maritime 
insurance.  The  Territorial  Force  was  embodied  and  the 
Naval  Reserves  were  called  out.  It  was  now  clear  that  our 
mobilization  must  take  place  at  least  three  days  later  than 
the  French,  and  that,  even  so,  movement  could  not  be 
simultaneous  with  it.  The  Government,  however,  reckoned 
that  by  this  delay  they  had  gained  more  than  they  had  lost 
by  securing  the  unanimity,  or  approximate  unanimity,  of 
the  nation  and  the  benevolence  of  neutrals. 

On  the  3rd  August,  at  6.45  p.m.,  Germany  declared  war 
on  France,  making  alleged  violation  of  her  frontier  by 
patrols  and  of  her  territory  by  aviators  a  pretext.^    Italy, 

*  These  allegations  have  since  been  admitted  to  have  been  false.  See 
M.  Poincare's  "  The  Origins  of  the  War,"  pp.  3  and  4. 

G.O.A.,  i.,  p.  104  f.n.  2  and  p.  105  f.n,  1,  revives  the  charges,  although 
Freiherr  von  Schoen,  German  Ambassador  in  Paris  in  1914,  in  his  book 
translated  as  "  The  Memoirs  of  an  Ambassador,"  p.  201,  has  declared  the 
alleged  air  attacks  to  be  "  merely  the  product  of  highly  overwrought  im- 
"  agination."  He  adds  :  "  How  such  false  reports  could  have  been  given 
"  the  weight  of  facts  in  our  responsible  quarters,  and  of  such  momentous 
"  facts,  is  inconceivable." 


THE  BRITISH  PLANS  29 

though  a  member  of  the  Triple  Alhance,  declared  that  she  4-6  Aug 
would  maintain  her  neutrality  in  the  impending  struggle.        iQi-i-- 

Meanwhile  Germany,  unhampered  by  moral  considera- 
tions, completed  her  arrangements  for  the  invasion  of 
Belgium.  On  the  morning  of  the  4th  August,  she  declared 
war  on  Belgium,  and  two  of  her  cavalry  divisions  passed  the 
frontier  :  in  the  afternoon  the  heads  of  infantry  columns 
also  entered  Belgium. 

Early  in  that  same  afternoon  of  the  4th  August  Sir 
Edward  Grey  telegraphed  to  the  British  Ambassador  at 
Berlin  instructing  him  to  ask  for  his  passports  if  no  satis- 
factory answer  were  given  regarding  the  observance  of 
Belgium's  neutrality  by  12  midnight  (11  p.m.  Greenwich 
mean  time).  At  4  p.m.  the  British  Government  gave 
orders  for  the  mobilization  of  the  Army.  At  12.15  a.m. 
on  the  morning  of  the  5th  August,  the  Foreign  Office  issued 
the  following  statement  : 

Owing  to  the  summary  rejection  by  the  German  Govern- 
ment of  the  request  made  by  His  Majesty's  Government  for 
assurances  that  the  neutrality  of  Belgium  will  be  respected, 
His  Majesty's  Ambassador  at  Berlin  has  received  his  passports 
and  His  Majesty's  Government  have  declared  to  the  German 
Government  that  a  state  of  war  exists  between  Great  Britain 
and  Germany  as  from  11  p.m.  on  the  4th  August. 

On  the  5th  and  6th  August,  two  meetings,  attended 
by  the  principal  Ministers,  including  Lord  Kitchener,  who 
was  at  home  on  leave  from  Egypt  and  became  Secretary 
of  State  for  War  on  the  6th,  and  by  the  leading  members 
of  the  Staffs  of  the  Navy  and  Army  of  Britain,  were 
assembled  to  consider  the  conduct  of  the  war.  The  exact 
state  of  affairs  at  the  moment  was  that  Great  Britain, 
France  and  Russia  were  at  war  with  Germany  ;  that 
Belgium  had  been  wantonly  attacked  but  was  making  a 
better  defence  than  had  been  expected  ;  that  Austria  was 
at  war  with  Serbia  only  ;  and  that  Italy  was  neutral.  The 
main  military  questions  to  be  decided  were  the  employment 
and  disposition  of  the  Expeditionary  Force,  questions 
which  were  complicated  by  the  delay  in  mobilization.  It 
was  determined  first  that  the  Force,  less  the  4th  and  6th 
Divisions,  should  embark  for  the  continent.  In  order  to 
reduce  the  chance  of  a  German  landing  in  force  interfering 
with  this  move,  the  Secretary  of  State  decided  that  the  18th 
Brigade  of  the  6th  Division,  then  at  Lichfield,  should  move 
to  Edinburgh,  and  two  brigades  of  the  4th  Division  should 


30  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

proceed  to  Cromer  and  York,  in  each  case  accompanied 
by  some  artillery.  The  11th  Brigade  of  the  4th  Division 
was  already  at  Colchester.  Five  cyclist  battalions  and 
eventually  the  Yeomanry  Mounted  Division  were  also  sent 
to  the  East  coast.  The  rest  of  the  6th  Division  was  to 
remain  in  Ireland. 

Then  came  the  final  decision  as  to  the  destination 
of  the  Expeditionary  Force.  In  view  of  the  attack  on 
Belgium,  had  the  British  contingent  been  of  a  size  adequate 
for  independent  operations  of  a  substantial  character, 
there  would  have  been  much  to  be  said  in  favour  of  making 
Antwerp  the  base  of  its  military  operations  ;  but  as  it 
was  so  small,  and  as  Antwerp,  owing  to  part  of  the  Schelde 
being  Dutch  territorial  waters,  would  have  to  be  reached 
overland  after  disembarkation  at  Ostend  and  other  ports, 
and  as  operations  in  the  north  might  involve  separation 
from  the  French,  the  suggestion  was  not  followed.  There 
remained  the  area  already  considered  with  the  French, 
narnely,  that  around  Le  Cateau  and  Avesnes.  Certain 
military  opinion,  however,  was  against  a  concentration 
of  the  British  forces  in  any  area  in  advance  of  Amiens. 
Finally,  after  discussion  as  to  the  expansion  of  the  army, 
it  was  agreed  to  leave  the  decision  with  our  Alhes,  the 
French  ;  ^  and  the  council  broke  up  after  passing  three 
resolutions,  namely — First,  to  embark  ultimately  five  (1st, 
2nd,  3rd,  4th  and  5th),  but  for  the  present  only  four  (1st, 
2nd,  3rd  and  5th)  of  the  divisions  and  the  Cavalry  Division 
(plus  the  extra  brigade)  of  the  Expeditionary  Force,  to 
commence  on  the  9th  ;  Secondly,  to  bring  home  the  Im- 
perial troops  from  South  Africa ;  Thirdly,  to  transport  two 
Indian  divisions  to  Egypt,  but  no  further,  and  to  urge  the 
Governrnent  of  India  to  send  a  division  to  capture  Dar  es 
Salaam  in  German  East  Africa. 

Through  the  efforts  of  Colonel  Huguet,  who  as  inter- 
mediary travelled  backwards  and  forwards  between  Paris 
and  London,  it  was  settled  that  the  Expeditionary  Force 
should  proceed  to  the  zone  selected  in  peace  time  by  the 

1  According  to  Marechal  Joffre's  official  report  to  a  Parliamentary 
Commission  d'Enquete  :  "  The  directions  for  concentration  did  not 
"  mention  the  place  eventually  reserved  for  the  British  Army.  .  .  .  Our 
"  military  arrangements  with  England  had  in  fact  a  character  which  was 
"  both  secret  and  contingent  {iventuel),  and  made  it  improper  to  mention 
"  them  in  such  a  document.  ...  In  the  event  of  its  arrival,  its  employment 
"  was  looked  for  at  the  place  which  should  be  logically  reserved  for  it,  on  the 
"  left  of  the  line  of  the  French  Armies,  which  it  would  thus  prolong."  "  La 
preparation  de  la  guerre  et  la  conduite  des  operations,"  par  Le  Marechal 
Joffre,  p.  21. 


PROGRESS  OF  EVENTS  31 

French  Staff,  with  some  slight  modification,  but  according  4  Aug. 
to  the  British  time  table.     General  Joffre's  request,  that  i^i"*- 
at  least  one  British  division  should  be  sent  over  as  rapidly 
as  possible  to  take  its  place  in  the  line,  Lord  Kitchener 
refused  on  the  grounds  that  any  alteration  of  the  plan  of 
transport  would  cause  confusion  and,  in  the  end,  delay. 

To  Field  -  Marshal  Sir  John  French,  who  had  been 
selected  to  command  the  Expeditionary  Force,  special 
instructions  as  to  his  co-operation  with  the  French  were 
issued  by  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War.^ 

Lieut. -General  Sir  Douglas  Haig  was  appointed  to  com- 
mand the  I.  Corps  ;  Lieut. -General  Sir  James  Grierson,  the 
II.  Corps  ;  Lieut. -General  W.  P.  Pulteney,  the  III.  Corps  ; 
and  Major-General  E.  H.  H.  Allenby,  the  Cavalry  Division. 
The  six  divisions  were  to  be  commanded  by  Major-Generals 
S.  H.  Lomax,  C.  C.  Monro,  H.  I.  W.  Hamilton,  T.  D'O. 
Snow,  Sir  C.  Fergusson  and  J.  L.  Keir. 

PROGRESS    OF    EVENTS 

At  4  P.M.  on  the  4th  August,  as  already  stated,  the  order 
for  mobilization  of  the  Expeditionary  and  Territorial  Forces 
was  issued  by  the  British  Government,  the  5th  August 
being  declared  "  the  first  day  of  mobilization."  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  mobilization  occurred  at  an  extremely  awkward 
moment,  for  the  3rd  August  had  been  Bank  Holiday  and, 
as  usually  is  the  case  in  the  middle  of  summer.  Territorial 
units  were  in  the  act  of  moving  to  various  camps  for  their 
annual  training  when  the  orders  cancelling  it  arrived. 
Hence  arose  the  question  whether  the  existing  time-tables 
for  concentration  should  stand,  or  whether  the  movements 
by  railway  should  be  postponed.  The  Cabinet  decided  for 
a  short  postponement,  and  gave  orders,  as  already  men- 
tioned, that  the  embarkation  of  the  Expeditionary  Force 
should  not  begin  until  the  9th,  although  "  the  advanced 
parties  "  were  to  proceed  on  the  7th.  Meantime  the 
mobilization  of  the  various  units  proceeded  with  the 
smoothness  which  had  been  anticipated.  In  all  essentials 
everything  went  "  according  to  plan  "  ;  and  even  the 
task  of  collecting  120,000  horses  was  accomplished  within 
twelve  days.  Embarkation  was  conducted  upon  the 
principle  that  every  train-load  should  be  a  complete  unit 
or  subdivision  of  a  unit,  so  that  upon  arrival  in  France 
after  its  passage,  it  should  be  self-contained  and  in  possession 

^  Appendix  8. 


32  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

of  enough  transport  to  go  straight  into  a  rest-camp  or  into 
another  train.    The  ports  of  embarkation  were  as  follows : 

Southampton  —  all  troops  in  Great  Britain ;  Avon- 
mouth — motor  transport  and  petrol ;  Newhaven — stores 
and  supplies  ;  Liverpool — frozen  meat  and  motor  transport ; 
Glasgow — a  few  details  ;  and  Dublin,  Cork  and  Belfast  for 
the  5th  and  6th  Divisions. 

The  ships  were  also  divided  into  classes  :  (1)  personnel 
ships  ;  (2)  horse  and  vehicle  ships  ;  (3)  motor  transport 
ships  ;  (4)  store  ships. 

The  ports  of  disembarkation  in  France  were  :  Havre, 
Rouen  and  Boulogne. 

In  the  five  days  of  greatest  activity  1,800  special  trains 
were  run  in  Great  Britain  and  Ireland  ;  on  the  busiest  day 
of  all,  eighty  trains,  containing  the  equivalent  of  a  division, 
were  run  into  Southampton  Docks  ;  the  daily  average  of 
ships  despatched  was  thirteen,  with  an  average  daily  tonnage 
of  about  52,000  tons  gross.  At  first  the  transports  were 
despatched  singly  as  they  were  ready,  both  by  day  and  by 
night  ;  for,  as  yet,  there  was  no  menace  by  German  sub- 
marines, and  the  measures  taken  by  the  Navy  gave  absolute 
security.^  Everything  went  regularly  and  smoothly,  and 
the  official  programme  was  carried  out  to  the  letter ;  but 
there  was  little  margin  to  spare. 

To  his  embarking  troops,  H.M.  the  King  sent  the 
following  message  : — 

"  You  are  leaving  home  to  fight  for  the  safety  and  honour 
"  of  my  Empire. 

"  Belgium,  whose  country  we  are  pledged  to  defend, 
"  has  been  attacked,  and  France  is  about  to  be  invaded  by 
"  the  same  powerful  foe. 

"  I  have  implicit  confidence  in  you,  my  soldiers.  Duty 
"  is  your  watchword,  and  I  know  your  duty  will  be  nobly 
"  done. 

"  I  shall  follow  your  every  movement  with  deepest 
*'  interest  and  mark  with  eager  satisfaction  your  daily 
"  progress  ;  indeed,  your  welfare  will  never  be  absent  from 
"  my  thoughts. 

"  I  pray  God  will  bless  you  and  guard  you,  and  bring 
"  you  back  victorious." 

Meanwhile  the  situation  in  Belgium  ^  and  on  the  French 

^  See  "  Naval  Operations,"  i.  p.  72  et  seq. 

*  The  Belgian  Official  Account  has  been  published  serially  in  the 
"  Bulletin  Beige  des  Sciences  Militaires,"  but  no  doubt  will  shortly  be 
available  in  book  form. 


LII^GE  33 

frontier  was  developing  rapidly.  When  during  the  night  4-5  Aug. 
of  the  3rd/4th  August,  it  became  clear  that  the  Germans  ^^^*- 
intended  to  advance  through  Belgium,  with  or  without 
permission,  the  Belgian  Staff  at  once  took  the  measures 
necessary  for  the  defence  of  their  country's  neutrality 
against  Germany.  The  3rd  Division,  supported  by  the  Map  i. 
fortifications  of  Liege,  was  to  check  the  German  advance  ; 
and,  under  cover  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  1st,  2nd,  5th 
and  6th  Divisions  were  to  move  to  the  line  of  the  river 
Gette,  the  Cavalry  Division  and  detachments  from  Liege 
and  Namur  screening  the  movement.  This  position  covered 
a  considerable  part  of  Belgium,  Brussels  and  the  com- 
munications with  Antwerp.  The  concentration  began  on 
the  4th  August,  and  by  the  morning  of  the  6th  the  Belgian 
Army  was  in  position  two  marches  west  of  Liege,  in  the 
area  Tirlemont  (1st  Division),  Perwez  (5th  Division), 
Louvain  (2nd  Division)  and  Wavre  (6th  Division). 

On  the  morning  of  the  4th,  when  German  cavalry 
crossed  the  Belgian  frontier  and  moved  upon  Vise,  north 
of  Liege,  it  found  the  bridge  over  the  Meuse  broken,  and 
the  western  bank  held  by  Belgian  troops.  Two  regiments 
were  then  pushed  northward  to  Lixhe  (3  miles  north 
of  Vise),  where  they  crossed  the  river  by  a  ford.  The 
Belgians,  finding  their  left  threatened,  thereupon  fell  back 
on  Liege.  By  evening  the  heads  of  six  small  German 
columns  of  all  arms  which  had  crossed  the  frontier  were 
nearly  two  miles  into  Belgium.  Further  concentrations 
were  also  reported  to  the  south  ;  and  it  became  evident 
that  a  very  large  army  threatened  invasion  along  the  lines 
of  advance  guarded  by  the  fortress  of  Liege  and  by  the 
3rd  Division. 

Liege  ^ 

On  the  5th  August,  the  Germans,  having  bridged  the 
Meuse  at  Lixhe,  pushed  forward  patrols  to  Tongres  (about  ten 
miles  N.N.W.  of  Liege),  and  the  commander-in-chief  of  the 
invading  troops.  General  von  Emmich  {X.  Corps),  demanded 
free  passage  through  Liege.  This  being  at  once  refused,  he 
attempted  to  seize  the  place  by  a  coup  de  main.  His  troops 
consisted  of  six  infantry  brigades  (at  frontier  peace  strength)^ 
provided  by  the  ///.,  IV.,  VII.,  IX.,  X.  and  XI.  Corps, 
each  with  a  squadron  of  cavalry,  a  battery  of  artillery,  a 
battalion   of  Jdger   (Rifles),   and   cyclists   attached  to  it. 

^  See  "  La  Bataille  de  Liege  "  (Belgian  Official  Account)  and  "  Liittich- 
Namur."  ^  See,  however,  page  54,  para.  3  of  Note  I. 

VOL.  I  D 


34  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

5-16  Aug.  Two  of  the  six  batteries  had  field  guns,  and  the  other  four, 

1914.     f^gj(j  howitzers.     Besides  this  force,  General  von  Emmich 

had  at  his  disposal  two  heavy  mortar  batteries  and  General 

von  der  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps,  comprising  the  2nd,  4th 

and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions. 

After  an  unsuccessful  attempt  had  been  made  to  kidnap 
the  commandant  of  Liege,  General  von  Emmich  gave 
orders  for  a  night  attack.  His  general  plan  was  to  make  a 
demonstration  against  the  forts  with  a  few  companies,  and 
to  send  the  six  brigades  through  the  intervals  between  the 
forts  to  secure  the  town  and  citadel,  and  then  to  fall  upon 
the  forts  from  the  rear.  This  attack  was  delivered  soon  after 
nightfall  in  five  columns  ;  one  from  the  north  ;  one  from  the 
north-east  (two  brigades  which  took  different  routes) ;  one, 
the  central  column,  from  the  east ;  and  two  from  the  south. 
The  first  two  columns,  for  the  most  part,  lost  their  way, 
and  fell  back  after  suffering  heavy  losses,  though  one 
battalion  penetrated  into  Liege  and  was  there  captured. 
Of  the  two  southern  columns,  one  halted,  having  casualties 
so  severe  as  to  forbid  further  progress,  and  the  other  was 
seized  with  panic,  the  men  firing  upon  each  other.  The 
central  column  met  with  serious  resistance,  the  brigadier 
and  the  commander  of  the  leading  regiment  being  killed. 
It  was  on  the  point  of  falling  back  when  Major-General 
Ludendorff,  who,  as  Deputy  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  of 
the  Second  Army,  was  with  General  von  Emmich  watching 
the  operations,  came  up  and,  taking  command,  pushed  on. 
He  was  specially  interested,  for  he  had  planned  these  very 
operations  in  peace  when  Chief  of  the  Operations  Section 
of  the  Great  General  Staff.  After  giving  his  men  a  rest, 
he  renewed  the  attack  in  the  forenoon  of  the  6th,  and 
advanced  until  his  leading  troops  were  within  a  mile  of 
Liege.  Though  unsupported  by  the  other  columns,  he 
decided  to  make  a  dash  for  the  citadel,  and  on  advancing 
found  practically  no  opposition.  The  Belgian  Staff,  an- 
ticipating that  the  3rd  Division  might  be  surrounded, 
had  withdrawn  it  to  the  Gette  ;  so  the  Germans  found 
themselves  in  possession  of  the  town  of  Liege. 

The  true  siege  of  the  fortress  then  began.  Marwitz's 
cavalry  corps  worked  round  to  the  western  side  of  the 
defences,  and  the  German  artillery  shelled  the  forts.  On 
the  12th,  42-cm.  howitzers  were  brought  up,  and  the  last 
of  the  forts  fell  at  8.30  a.m.  on  the  16th.  General  Leman, 
the  commandant,  was  taken  unconscious  from  under  a  heap 
of  wreckage  and  made  prisoner.     Liege  was  lost,  but  by 


SKETCH  3. 


LIEGE  35 

delaying  the  German  advance  it  had  rendered  transcendent  10-20 Aug. 
service  to  the  cause  of  Belgium's  Allies.^  1914- 

Whilst  the  siege  was  in  progress,  on  the  10th,  German  sketches 
cavalry  and  Jciger  ^  appeared  before  the  line  of  the  Gette,  1  &  3. 
and  gradually  extended  their  front  northwards  as  far  as  ^  g^"^  ^'  ^ 
Hasselt    (18    miles    north-east    of    Tirlemont)    and    Diest 
(12  miles  north  of  Tirlemont).     On  the  12th  six  German 
cavalry    regiments,    with    three    horse-batteries    and    two 
Jdger  battalions  attacked  the  line  of  the  Gette  at  Haelen,  a 
little  to  the  south-east  of  Diest,  and  made  some  progress, 
but  were  ultimately  driven  back  by  the  Belgians,  with 
appreciable  loss,  after  ten  hours  of  sharp  fighting. 

German  troops,  however,  continued  to  pour  into  Bel- 
gium, and  by  the  17th  the  space  between  the  Meuse,  the 
Demer  and  the  Gette  was  occupied  by  them  in  strength, 
in  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  Belgian  Army,  assisted  by  the 
Garde  Civique,  had  systematically  obstructed  the  roads 
and  destroyed  the  bridges.  The  right  flank  of  the  line  of 
the  Gette  was  already  threatened,  and  columns  to  support 
the  turning  movement  were  passing  the  Meuse  at  Huy, 
where  the  bridge,  blown  up  by  the  Belgians,  had  been  re- 
paired. On  the  18th,  the  Germans  again  attacked  and 
carried  Haelen,  and  also  entered  Tirlemont.  They  then 
fell  upon  the  front  and  left  flank  of  the  Belgian  1st  Division, 
and  only  by  hard  fighting  were  held  at  bay.  The  Gette 
position  was  now  evidently  in  imminent  danger.  It  was 
certain  that  the  German  //.,  IV.  and  IX.  Corps,  covered 

^  The  time  gained  to  the  Allies  would  appear  to  have  been  about  four  or 
five  days.  According  to  Kluck  (pp.  10-19),  his  three  leading  corps  were 
on  the  line  Kermpt — Stevort — Gorssum,  forty  miles  (say  three  marches) 
west  of  Aix  la  Chapelle,  on  the  night  of  the  17th.  They  had  begun  to 
arrive  in  the  concentration  area  north-east  of  Aix  on  the  7th.  Had 
Liege  offered  no  opposition  and  had  they  at  once  marched  off  into  Belgium, 
there  seems  no  reason  why  the  II.,  III.  and  IV.  Corps  should  not  have 
reached  the  above  line  on  the  10th,  and  completed  concentration  there 
on  the  12th  or  13th — four  or  five  days  earlier  than  was  the  case.  The 
six  composite  brigades  and  cavalry  corps  which  attacked  Liege  were 
available  to  cover  the  concentration.  Even  on  the  10th  August  the  German 
Supreme  Command  hoped  to  commence  the  advance  on  the  13th,  five 
days  earlier  than  was  possible  (Biilow,  pp.  11,  12).  According  to  post-war 
German  publications  however,  e.g.  "  Graf  Schlieffen  und  der  Weltkrieg  " 
by  Foerster,  the  German  time-table  made  the  armies  reach  the  line  Thion- 
ville — Sedan — Mons,  on  the  22nd  day  of  mobilization  (23rd  August),  and  Sketch 
they  were  actually  slightly  ahead  of  it  ;  but  this  is  accounted  for  by  the 
hasty  retreat  of  the  French  Armies  after  the  first  contact.  Belgian  opinion 
is  that  at  least  four  days  were  gained  ("  Bulletin  Beige  des  Sciences  Mili- 
taires,"  Sept.  1921).     See  also  Note  II.  at  end  of  Chapter. 

^  It  must  be  borne  in  mind  that  a  German  cavalry  division  was  a 
mixed  force  of  all  arms,  with  two  or  more  Jdger  (Rifle)  battalions  included. 
(See  Plate  1.) 


36  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

Aug.  1914.  by  the  2nd  and  4th  Cavalry  Divisions  were  opposite  the 
Belgian  left  between  Diest  and  Tirlemont ;  whilst  the 
Guard,  X.  and  VII.  Corps  were  marching  against  the 
Belgian  right  on  a  front  from  Jodoigne  (7  miles  S.S.W. 
of  Tirlemont)  to  Namur.  It  was  also  known  that  the 
Active  corps  were  being  followed  by  Reserve  formations, 
namely,  in  the  First  Army  by  the  ///.,  IV.  and  IX. 
Reserve  Corps  ;  in  the  Second  Army  by  the  Guard,  VII. 
and  X.  Reserve  Corps  ;  and  in  the  Third  Army  by  the 
XII.  Reserve  Corps.  The  French  and  the  British,  as  will  be 
seen,  were  neither  of  them  yet  at  hand  to  render  assistance ; 
and  it  was  hopeless  for  the  Belgians  to  think  of  contending 
against  odds  of  four  or  five  to  one.  Accordingly,  on  the 
evening  of  the  18th,  the  five  Belgian  divisions  were  skilfully 
drawn  off  from  the  Gette  north-westward  to  Antwerp,  and 
on  the  20th  entered  the  lines  of  that  fortress  without 
being  seriously  molested.  There,  on  the  flank  of  the  Ger- 
mans if  they  advanced  westward,  and  in  their  rear  if  they 
should  turn  southward,  the  Belgian  Army  remained — an 
effective  menace  to  the  enemy. ^ 

Namur  ^ 

Further  to  the  south,  about  Namur,  where  the  Belgian 
4th  Division  was  stationed,  German  cavalry  patrols  were 
in  touch  with  the  Belgian  cavalry  to  the  north  of  the 
fortress  on  the  5th  August,  and  to  the  south-east  of  it  on 
the  7th.  But  it  was  not  until  nearly  a  fortnight  later  that 
the  main  bodies  of  the  enemy  approached  ;  meanwhile, 
on  the  19th,  the  garrison  had  been  joined  by  the  Belgian 
8th  Brigade  which,  finding  itself  completely  isolated  at 
Huy,  had  blown  up  the  bridge  over  the  Meuse  there  and 
fallen  back  on  Namur.  On  that  day  the  Guard  Reserve 
Corps  of  the  German  Second  Army  appeared  on  the  north 

^  According  to  Hansen,  the  commander  of  the  Third  Army  ("  Marne- 
schlacht,"  p.  244,  f.n.),  the  III.  Reserve  Corps  and  IX.  Reserve  Corps 
were  originally  detailed  to  push  forward  to  the  coast  "  direction  Calais," 
but  this  order  was  cancelled  when  the  Belgian  Army  went  into  Antwerp, 
and  both  corps  were  sent  to  watch  the  fortress.  Later,  in  early  September, 
the  XV.  Corps  was  detained  near  Brussels  on  account  of  a  sortie  being 
expected  from  Antwerp.  These  three  corps  were  absent  from  the  Battle 
of  the  Marne,  though  the  IX.  Reserve  and  XV.  Corps  reached  the  Aisne  in 
time  to  oppose  the  Allied  advance.  There  were  further  employed  at 
Antwerp  :  the  4th  Ersatz  Division  (sent  from  the  Sixth  Army),  the  1st 
Ersatz  Reserve  Division,  a  Matrosen  division,  the  26th  and  37th  Landwehr 
Brigades,  besides  heavy  artillery  and  engineers. 

^  See  "  La  Defense  de  la  Position  Fortifiee  de  Namur  "  (Belgian  official 
work),  and  "  Liittich-Namur." 


NAMUR  37 

of  the  fortress,  and  the  XI.  Corps,  consisting  of  the  22nd  5-23  Aug. 
and  38th  Divisions,  of  the  Third  Army,  on  the  south-east,     i^^"*- 
the  whole  under  the  command  of  General  von  Gallwitz. 
With  these  troops  was  a  large  proportion  of  heavy  artillery, 
including  four  batteries  of  Austrian  30-5-cm.  mortars  and 
one  battery  of  Krupp's  42-cm.  howitzers. 

On  the  20th  August,  the  Germans  drove  in  the  Belgian 
outposts,  but  this  time  instead  of  attempting  a  coup  de  main, 
waited  for  their  heavy  guns  which  on  the  21st  opened  fire 
on  the  eastern  and  south-eastern  forts.  The  Belgian  com- 
mandant was  powerless  either  to  keep  these  monster  howit- 
zers at  a  distance  or  to  silence  them  by  counter-batteries. 
Before  evening  two  of  the  principal  forts  had  been  very 
seriously  damaged  ;  within  another  twenty-four  hours  both 
were  practically  destroyed.  Two  Belgian  counter-attacks 
on  the  22nd  August  failed  ;  and  by  the  evening  of  the  23rd 
the  northern  and  eastern  fronts  had  been  laid  bare,  and 
five  out  of  the  whole  circle  of  nine  forts  were  in  ruins.  At 
midnight  the  4th  Division  and  the  mobile  garrison  with- 
drew southwards,  losing  5,500  men  but  just  escaping  the 
clutches  of  the  enemy  who  was  closing  round  the  fortress ; 
so  they  made  good  their  escape  into  France,  whence  later 
they  rejoined  the  main  Belgian  Army  at  Antwerp. 

Thus  for  eighteen  days  the  Belgians  had  faced  the 
German  invasion,  delaying  the  hostile  advance  during  a 
most  critical  period,  and  gaining  time  which  was  of  price- 
less value  to  the  Allies.  In  addition  to  this  great  strategic 
advantage,  the  fact  that  the  first  German  operations 
against  fortresses,  conducted  under  the  conditions  obtain- 
ing in  modern  warfare,  were  so  rapidly  successful  gave 
warning  to  the  French  to  readjust  their  conceptions  of  the 
defensive  value  of  their  fortified  front,  and  reorganize  it  on 
lines  calculated  to  counter  the  effect  of  bombardment  by 
heavy  howitzers. 

0 

The  Operations  of  the  French  ^ 

(Sketch  2  ;  Maps  1,  2  «fe  5) 

On  the  2nd  August,  the  day  of  the  presentation  to  Sketch  2. 
Belgium  of  the  German  ultimatum,  the  French  Commander- 

1  F.O.A.,  i.  (i.)  pp.  87,  93,  134  ;  also  General  Joffre's  statement  to  the 
Parliamentary  Commission  d'Enquete  :  Defense  du  bassin  de  Briey  ;  the 
very  lucid  commentary  on  this  Commission,  by  its  rapporteur,  M.  Fernand 
Engerand,  entitled  "  La  Bataille  de  la  Frontidre  "  ;  and  the  official  pub- 
lication "  Quatre  Mois  de  Guerre  :  Rapport  sur  I'ensemble  des  operations 
du  2  aout  au  2  decenibre  1914." 


38  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

2-12  Aug.  in-Chief  decided  to  use  "  the  alternative  concentration 
1914.  "  areas  "  for  the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies,  so  as  to  inter- 
polate the  former  in  the  general  line,  and  extend  the  left 
wing  further  towards  the  north. 
Map  1.  On  the  3rd,  in  view  of  the  German  violation  of  Luxem- 
bourg territory,  General  Joffre  ordered  Sordet's  cavalry 
corps  to  push  forward  next  day  to  the  east  of  Mezieres,  but 
telephoned  to  its  commander  and  to  the  Army  commanders 
insisting  "  on  the  imperious  obligation  "  not  to  cross  the 
frontier  ;  "  if  there  are  incidents,"  he  said,  "  they  must 
"  only  arise  and  develop  on  French  territory."  On  the 
evening  of  the  4th,  twenty-four  hours  after  the  German 
declaration  of  war  and  twelve  hours  after  German  cavalry 
had  advanced  into  Belgium,  King  Albert  authorized  the 
French  to  enter  his  territory  for  the  purpose  of  ascertaining 
the  direction  of  advance  of  the  Germans  and  of  delaying 
their  columns.  General  Sordet  crossed  the  frontier  on  the 
6th  and  moved  first  towards  Neufchateau  (36  miles  east 
of  Mezieres).  Then,  striking  north,  he  eventually  arrived 
within  nine  miles  of  Liege  ;  but,  finding  that  the  Belgian 
field  troops  had  been  withdrawn  from  the  area  of  the  for- 
tress, he  retired  on  the  10th  in  the  direction  of  the  Meuse. 
Valuable  information  was  obtained  by  him  as  to  the 
enemy's  movements  from  an  officer  who  was  captured  on 
the  9th,  but  otherwise  the  intelligence  gained  in  the 
strategic  reconnaissance  was  negative;  neither  did  the 
latter  achieve  its  secondary  object  of  delaying  the  enemy's 
advance  ;  for,  owing  to  the  resistance  of  Liege,  no  important 
columns  of  German  troops  had  at  the  time  entered  the 
area  explored. 

To  fill  the  gap  between  the  French  Fifth  Army  and  the 
Belgian  troops  defending  Namur,  a  French  infantry  regi- 
ment was  sent  on  the  8th  to  occupy  all  the  bridges  on  the 
Meuse  north  of  Dinant  and  gain  touch  with  the  Belgians ; 
^  and  the  I.  Corps  extended  its  protective  troops  along  the 

Meuse  from  Mezieres  to  Givet.  On  the  13th  the  whole 
I.  Corps  was  sent  northwards  "  to  oppose  any  attempts  of 
"  the  enemy  to  cross  the  Meuse  between  Givet  and  Namur." 
On  the  15th,  in  conjunction  with  General  Mangin's  8th 
Brigade  (specially  detailed  to  support  the  cavalry  corps), 
it  repulsed  an  attempt  of  Richthofen's  cavalry  corps  {Guard 
and  5th  Cavalry  Divisions)  to  cross  near  Dinant. 

Between  the  6th  and  8th  August,  it  became  certain  that 
an  enemy  force  containing  units  belonging  to  five  different 
army  corps  was  operating  against  Liege  ;    but  the  main 


OPERATIONS  OF  THE  FRENCH  39 

group  of  the  German  Armies  appeared  to  the  French  is-iGAuj 
General  Staff  to  be  around  Metz,  in  front  of  Thionville  and  ^^^^• 
in  Luxembourg.  The  enemy  was  thus,  it  was  thought,  in 
a  position  either  to  advance  westwards  if  Liege  fell,  or  if 
Liege  held  out  to  wheel  southwards,  pivoting  on  Metz.  A 
decision  was  therefore  made  by  General  Joffre,  and  com- 
municated to  the  French  Armies  on  the  8th  August,^  to  the 
effect  that  his  intention  was  to  bring  the  Germans  to  battle 
with  all  his  forces  united,  as  in  the  original  plan,  with  his 
right  extended  to  the  Rhine.  If  necessary,  the  left  of  the 
line  would  be  held  back,  so  as  to  avoid  the  premature 
engagement  of  one  of  the  Armies  before  the  others  could 
come  to  its  assistance.  If,  however,  the  enemy's  right 
were  delayed  in  front  of  Liege,  or  turned  southwards,  the 
left  would  be  advanced.  General  directions  were  issued  as 
to  the  objectives  and  zones  of  action  for  the  Armies,  the 
Fifth  being  ordered  to  remain  concentrated  so  as  to  be  in 
a  position  either  to  prevent  an  enemy  passage  of  the  Meuse 
between  Mouzon  (20  miles  above  Mezieres)  and  Mezieres, 
or  to  cross  itself  between  those  two  places.  The  instruc- 
tions ended  with  an  order  to  make  all  preparations  so  that 
the  movement  could  be  carried  out  on  receipt  of  a  telegram, 
and  to  render  the  offensive  crushing  (foudroyante). 

On  the  13th  General  Joffre  came  to  the  conclusion  that 
the  enemy  was  wheeling  south  towards  the  Third,  Fourth 
and  Fifth  Armies  on  the  Upper  Meuse,  and  it  was  too  late 
for  them  to  seek  battle  beyond  that  river  "  under  good 
"  conditions."  He  directed  them  to  be  prepared  to  counter- 
attack. He  paid  no  heed  to  the  view  of  General  Lanrezac 
(Fifth  Army),  that  the  enemy  wheel  was  of  a  much  wider 
nature. 

Meantime  in  Alsace,  "  to  facilitate  the  attack  of  the 
"  main  Armies,"  the  small  offensive — outlined  in  the  original 
plan — was  commenced  on  the  extreme  right  by  a  detach- 
ment of  the  First  Army,  consisting  of  the  VII.  Corps 
and  8th  Cavalry  Division.  This  detachment  crossed  the 
frontier  on  the  6th  August.  After  its  advanced  guard  had 
reached  Mulhausen,  it  found  itself  in  the  presence  of 
superior  forces,  and  was  withdrawn.  On  the  14th  the  offen- 
sive was  renewed  with  a  stronger  force,  called  the  Army 
of  Alsace,  consisting  of  the  VII.  Corps,  and  the  Alpine 
and  three  Reserve  divisions,  under  General  Pau.  On  the 
same  date  the  First  and  Second  Armies  began  their  forward 

^  In  Instruction  No.  1,  dated  8th  August  1914,  7  a.m.     F.O.A.,  i.  (i.) 
Annexe  No.  103. 


40  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

\ug.  1914.  movement  across  the  frontier.  P'or  the  Armies  on  the  left 
only  certain  precautions  were  ordered.  But  during  the 
afternoon  of  the  15th,  news  came  from  the  Belgian  Army 
that  200,000  Germans  were  crossing  the  Meuse  below  Vise, 
and  from  the  I.  Corps  of  the  attack  at  Dinant  ;  the  Grand 
Quartier  General  (G.Q.G.)  in  consequence  ordered  the  Fifth 
Army  to  hand  over  to  the  Fourth  Army  its  right  corps 
(II.)  and  Group  of  Reserve  divisions,  which  were  guarding 
the  Meuse  in  touch  with  the  I.  Corps,  and  take  the  rest 
of  its  forces  northwards  across  the  Belgian  frontier  into 
the  angle  of  the  Meuse  and  the  Sambre  to  the  region  of 
Mariembourg  (24  miles  north  by  west  of  Mezieres)  or 
Philippeville  (33  miles  north  of  Mezieres),  "  to  act  in  concert 
"  with  the  British  Army  and  the  Belgian  forces  against  the 
"enemy  forces  in  the  north."  G.Q.G.  placed  Sordet's 
cavalry  corps  and  Valabregue's  Group  of  Reserve  divisions, 
then  at  Vervins  (36  miles  west  of  Mezieres),  under  the  Fifth 
Army,  and  also  ordered  to  it  two  recently  arrived  African 
divisions  and  the  XVIII.  Corps,  originally  in  the  Second 
Army,  from  the  general  reserve.^ 

In  order  to  leave  the  Third  Army  entirely  free  to  con- 
centrate its  attention  on  offensive  operations  the  duty  of 
masking  Metz  was  given  to  a  new  force,  the  Army  of 
Lorraine,  composed  of  three  Reserve  divisions  from  the 
Third  Army  and  three  others  sent  up  for  the  purpose  ; 
General  Maunoury,  who  had  originally  been  on  the  Italian 
frontier,  was  given  command  of  it.  There  was  thus  a 
general  taking  of  ground  to  the  left. 

The  French  general  plan  of  operations  now  began  to 

take  definite  shape  as  cumulative  evidence  showed  that  the 

main  German  advance  was  in  progress  through  Belgium, 

Map  2.  The  situation  as  it  presented  itself  to  G.Q.G.  on  the  16th 

August  was  as  follows  : 

In  the  north,  seven  or  eight  German  army  corps  and  four 
cavalry  divisions  are  endeavouring  to  pass  westwards  between 
Givet  and  Brussels,  and  even  beyond  these  points. 

^  To  make  the  changes  clear,  they  are  enumerated  together  here  : 

The  Third  Army  was  reinforced  by  one  Reserve  division,  and  then  by 
two  more. 

The  Fourth  Army  took  over  from  the  Fifth  Army  :  II.  Corps  ;  XI. 
Corps  ;  52nd  and  60th  Reserve  Divisions  (leaving  it  the  51st)  ;  a  cavalry 
division ;  and  the  Moroccan  Division  from  the  IX.  Corps  of  the  Second  Army. 

The  Fifth  Army,  to  make  up  for  this,  received  the  37th  and  38th 
Divisions  from  Africa  ;  the  XVIII.  Corps  from  the  Second  Army  ;  and 
General  Valabregue's  Group  of  three  Reserve  divisions.  So  that  the  corps 
it  now  contained  were  the  I.,  III.,  X.  and  XVIII.,  with  the  37th  Division 
added  to  the  III.  and  the  38th  to  the  X. 


OPERATIONS  OF  THE  FRENCH  41 

In  the  centre  between  Bastogne  and  Thionville  there  were  Aug,  1914, 
thought  to  be  six  or  seven  army  corps,  and  two  or  three  cavalry 
divisions. 

South  of  Metz,  the  Germans  appeared  to  be  on  the 
defensive.^ 

General  Joffre's  intention  now  was  to  make  the  principal 
attack  with  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  through  Luxem- 
bourg and  Belgian  Luxembourg,  so  as  to  strike  at  the  flank 
and  communications  of  the  enemy  forces  which  had  crossed 
the  Meuse  between  Namur  and  the  Dutch  frontier,  and  if 
possible  attack  them  before  they  could  deploy  for  battle 
by  wheeling  south.  To  support  this  offensive  the  First 
and  Second  Armies  were  to  make  only  a  secondary  attack 
between  Metz  and  the  Vosges,  for  the  purpose  of  holding 
the  enemy,  who  seemed  to  be  gradually  shifting  westwards 
and  might  otherwise  be  able  to  take  in  flank  the  French 
Armies  attacking  in  Luxembourg.  Lastly,  the  left  wing, 
consisting  of  the  Fifth  Army,  the  British  Army  when  it 
should  arrive,  and  the  Belgian  Army,  was  to  move  up  so 
as  to  hold  in  check  any  German  forces  which  might  ad- 
vance from  the  Meuse,  and  so  gain  sufficient  time  to  allow 
the  attack  of  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  to  become 
effective.  In  order  to  give  weight  to  the  attack,  the  Third 
and  Fourth  Armies  were  somewhat  strengthened. ^ 

In  brief,  General  Joffre's  first  object  was  to  break  the 
enemy's  centre  ;  that  done  he  intended  to  fall  with  all 
available  forces  on  the  right  or  western  wing  of  the  German 
Armies. 

The  instructions  which  he  sent  out  on  the  20th  were  as  20  Aug. 
follow :  1^1^- 

To  General  Ruffey  : 

"  The  Third  Army  will  begin  its  offensive  movement 

^  The  German  Order  of  Battle  was  given  as  follows  : 

"  Two  Armies  of  the  Meuse  under  the  orders  of  General  von  Biilow 
"  are  operating  in  front  of  the  Fifth  Army  ;  one  comprises  the  VII.,  IX. 
"  and  X.  Corps,  the  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions  ;  the  other  is  said  to 
'•  be  formed  of  the  III.,  IV.,  VI.  and  XI.  Corps  and  two  cavalry  divisions, 
"  Guard  and  5th. 

"  There  is  no  precise  information  of  the  great  concentration  in  Belgium 
"  and  Belgian  Luxembourg.  It  is  believed  that  there  is  in  Belgian  Luxem- 
"  bourg  one  Army  commanded  by  General  von  Heeringen,  including  the 
"  Guard,  XII.  and  XIX.  Corps  and  a  cavalry  division  ;  and  between 
"  Luxembourg  and  Thionville  a  fourth  Army  under  General  von  Eichhorn, 
"  in  which  are  grouped  the  VIII.,  XVI.  and  XVIII.  Corps,  and  the  3rd 
"  and  6th  Cavalry  Divisions.''' 

This,  except  for  the  commanders'  names,  was  not  far  from  the  mark  ; 
but  there  is  no  mention  of  the  Reserve  corps.     (See  page  36.) 

^  See  footnote  on  previous  page. 


42  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

20  Aug.  "  to-morrow  in  the  general  direction  of  Arlon.  .  .  .  The 
1914.  "  mission  of  the  Third  Army  is  to  counter-attaek  any 
"  enemy  force  which  may  try  to  gain  the  right  flank  of  the 
"  Fourth  Army." 

To  General  de  Langle  of  the  Fourth  Army,  he  tele- 
graphed : 

"  I  authorize  you  to  send  strong  advanced  guards  of 
"  all  arms  to-night  to  the  general  line  Bertrix — Tintigny 
"  to  secure  the  debouchment  of  your  Army  beyond  the 
*'  Semoy.  .  .  .  The  general  direction  of  the  movement  will 
"  be  Neufchateau." 

The  positions  on  the  morning  of  the  20th  indicate  the 
preliminary  movements  which  had  been  made  for  the 
purpose.     They  were  : 

The  Army  of  Alsace  had  reached  Miilhausen. 
The  First  and  Second  Armies  were  across  the  frontier  in  front 
of  Luneville  and  Nancy,  from  near  Sarrebourg  to  Delme, 
about  thirtv-six  miles  north-west  of  Sarrebourg. 
The  Army  of  Lorraine  was  observing  Metz. 
The  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  were  close  up  to  the  Belgian 
frontier,  astride  the  river  Chiers,  from  near  Longwy  to 
Map  5.  Sedan,  ready  to  cross  the  river  Semoy. 

The  Fifth  Army  was  disposed  : 

The  I.  Corps  and  8th  Infantry  Brigade  on  the  Meuse, 
near  Dinant,  facing  east,  with 

The  51st  Reserve  Division  marching  up  from  the  south 
to  act  as  a  link  between  the  French  Fourth  and  Fifth 
Armies. 

The  X.  and  III.  Corps,  each  with  an  African  division 
attached  to  it,  lay  in  depth  close  up  to  the  Sambre  near 
Charleroi,  facing  north. 

The  XVIII.  Corps  was  echeloned  to  the  left  rear  on 
the  line  Gozee — Thuin  (6  miles  and  9  miles  south-west 
of  Charleroi). 

General  Valabregue's  two  remaining  Reserve  divisions 
were  on  the  left  of  the  XVIII.  Corps  and  north-east  of 
Maubeuge,  on  the  east  of  the  gap  into  which  General  Joffre 
intended  the  British  Army  should  move. 

Further  to  the  west  and  beyond  the  space  to  be  occupied 
by  the  British,  were  three  Territorial  divisions  under 
General  d'Amade,  sent  up  on  the  14th,  the  84th  near  Douai, 
the  82nd  near  Arras,  and  the  81st  between  Hazebrouck 
and  St.  Omer. 

It  will  be  observed  that  the  front  of  the  Fifth  Army 
under   General   Lanrezac   along   the   Meuse   and   Sambre 


OPERATIONS  OF  THE  FRENCH  43 

formed  a  salient,  with  its  apex  just  short  of  the  Belgian  20-2iAug. 
fortress  of  Namur,  on  which  by  the  evening  of  the  20th    1914. 
the  Germans  were  closing.     Consequently,  any  failure  of 
his  right  to  hold  its  ground  on  the  Meuse  would  place  his 
centre  and  left  in  a  very  dangerous  situation,  and  render 
them  liable  to  be  cut  off. 

On  the  20th,  however,  before  the  general  advance  had 
begun,  misfortunes  had  already  overtaken  the  French. 
According  to  the  bulletins  originally  issued  :  "  The  First 
"  and  Second  Armies,  tired  by  several  days  of  marching  and 
"  fighting,  came  up  against  strongly  organized  positions, 
"  armed  with  powerful  artillery,  whose  fire  was  admirably 
"  prepared  and  corrected  by  aeroplanes."  This,  however, 
was  not  quite  the  case.  The  Germans  [Sixth  Army)  had 
at  first  withdrawn  before  the  Second  Army,  and  the  latter, 
with  the  XX.  Corps  under  General  Foch  on  the  left,  had 
on  the  18th  followed  in  pursuit.  Early  in  the  morning  of 
the  20th  the  enemy  had  come  forward  again  and  attacked 
the  Second  Army  in  front  and  left  flank  ;  it  had  been 
compelled  to  retire  and  the  First  Army  had  to  conform  to 
its  movements.  The  actions  in  which  the  First  and  Second 
Armies  were  engaged  are  known  as  the  battles  of  Sarrebourg 
and  Morhange  (25  miles  north-west  of  Sarrebourg). ^ 

On  the  21st  August,  in  spite  of  this  reverse  to  the 
French  right  wing,  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  crossed 
the  frontier  and  advanced  from  ten  to  fifteen  miles  into 
the  difficult  Ardennes  country,  an  area  of  rough  hills  and 
deep  river  valleys,  covered  by  forests  broken  only  by 
narrow  belts  of  pasture  land.  Aeroplanes  could  see  nothing, 
the  cavalry  could  not  get  forward,  and  in  the  defiles, 
which  the  roads  through  the  villages  and  forests  con- 
stitute, the  French  columns  ran  literally  at  right  angles 
into  German  columns  belonging  to  the  Armies  of  the 
German  Crown  Prince  and  Duke  Albert  of  Wiirttemberg, 
numerically  slightly  superior  to  them,^  which  were  crossing 
their  front.    After  fighting  the  actions  known  as  the  battles 

1  It  may  be  added  here  that  an  attempted  pursuit  of  the  Second  Army 
by  the  Germans  received  a  serious  check  on  the  25th  ;  for,  in  spite  of  the 
reverse,  the  French  First  Army  returned  to  the  offensive  and  struck  them 
in  flank.  After  some  indecisive  fighting,  the  situation  of  the  French 
First  and  Second  Armies  became  stabihzed  on  a  Une  in  France,  just  inside 
tlie  frontier. 

2  French.  German. 

Third  Army         .        .        .     168,000         Fifth  Army        .        .        .    200,000 
Fourth  Army      .        .        .    193,000         Fourth  Army    .        .        .    180,000 

361,000  380,000 


44  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

21  Aug.  of  Virton  and  of  the  Semoy,i  having  suffered  heavy  losses, 
1914.  particularly  in  officers,  the  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  were 
compelled  to  fall  back  towards  the  Meuse.  The  attempt 
to  break  in  the  German  centre  before  the  right  wing  could 
deliver  its  blow  against  the  Allied  left  wing  had  thus  failed, 
owing  to  the  French  having  neglected  to  adapt  their  method 
of  advance  to  the  nature  of  the  ground  (an  advance  by 
bounds  from  the  edge  of  one  open  belt  to  another  does  not 
appear  to  have  been  considered)  ;  to  their  having  been 
caught  in  column  in  narrow  defiles  and  thus  unable  to  use 
their  artillery  with  effect  ;  and  to  their  line  of  advance 
having  brought  them  head-on  to  the  broadside  of  the 
German  columns.  Thanks  however  to  a  premature  en- 
veloping attack  attempted  by  the  German  Crown  Prince 
the  reverse  was  less  serious  than  it  might  otherwise  have 
been. 

As  regards  the  French  Fifth  Army,  General  Lanrezac 
had  considered  it  inadvisable  to  advance  simultaneously 
with  the  Armies  on  his  right.  He  preferred  to  wait  until 
his  reinforcements  should  have  arrived,  which  would  not 
be  until  the  23rd  ;  ^  until  the  Fourth  Army  should  have 
cleared  the  gorges  of  the  Semoy  and  shortened  by  its  ad- 
vance the  eastern  face  of  the  salient  which  the  front  of  the 
Fifth  Army  presented  to  the  enemy  ;  and  until  the  British 
Army  should  similarly  have  come  up  on  his  left.  As  will 
presently  be  seen,  Sir  John  French's  force  on  the  21st  was 
approaching  the  line  of  the  Mons — Conde  canal.  The 
general  situation  in  which  it  was  about  to  play  its  part  may 
be  thus  summarized  : — 

The  French  First  and  Second  Armies  were  retiring  after 
the  battles  of  Sarrebourg  and  Morhange  ; 

The  Third  and  Fourth  "  had  failed,  and  the  reverse  seemed 
serious  "  ; 

The  Fifth  Army  was  in  a  salient  about  to  be  attacked  by 
two  German  Armies  ; 

Namur  was  on  the  point  of  falling  (the  last  fort  surrendered 
on  the  25th)  ;   and 

The  Belgian  Army  had  been  driven  into  Antwerp.^ 

1  There  are  vivid  accounts  of  these  actions  in  Commandant  Grasset's 
"  Ethe,"  "  Virton  "  and  "  Neufchateau." 

2  See  page  40. 

*  The  French  tactical  doctrine — infantry  attack  head  down,  regardless 
of  fire  and  of  artillery  support — had  proved  so  totally  unsuited  to  modern 
warfare  that  on  24th  August  the  following  note  was  issued  to  all  the 
French  Armies  over  General  Joffre's  signature  : — • 

"  It  has  been  noticed  in  the  information  collected  with  regard  to  the 


OPERATIONS  OF  THE  GERMANS  45 

Operations  of  the  Germans  ^ 

Leaving  only  three  Active   corps  and  three  Reserve  i7  Aug. 
divisions,  assisted  by  a  cavalry  division,  one  Ersatz  division    ^^i^- 
and  Landwehr  formations,  some  250,000  men  in  all,  on  her  sketch  i . 
Eastern  frontier,  where  she  had  the  co-operation  of  the  ^^^ps  i 
Austro-Hungarian  Army,  and  the  IX.  Reserve  Corps  (until 
the  23rd  August)  and  Landwehr  formations  in  Sehleswig 
to  guard  against  a  possible  landing,  Germany  had  assembled 
the  rest  of  her  available  mobile  troops  on  her  Western 
frontier  in  seven  Armies,^  with  Generaloberst  von  Moltke 
as  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  and  practically  in  command. 

By  the  evening  of  the  17th  August  these  Armies  were 
concentrated,  ready  to  move,  on  a  long  front  extending 
from  the  fortress  of  Strasbourg  to  the  Dutch  frontier  north 
of  Liege.  This  front  ran  through  Sarrebourg,  Metz  and 
Thionville  ;  ^  up  the  centre  of  the  Duchy  of  Luxembourg 
(the  neutrality  of  which  had  been  violated  on  the  2nd 
August),  to  Liege  ;  and  then  to  the  north-west  of  this 
fortress,  where  the  northernmost  German  Army,  Kluck's, 

"  actions  which  have  so  far  taken  place  that  attacks  have  not  been  carried 
"  out  with  close  co-operation  between  the  infantry  and  the  artillery. 

"  Every  combined  operation  includes  a  series  of  detailed  actions  aiming 
"  at  the  capture  of  the  points  d'appui. 

"  Each  time  that  it  is  necessary  to  capture  a  point  d'appui  the  attack 
"  must  be  prepared  with  artillery,  the  infantry  must  be  held  back  and  not 
"  launched  to  the  assault  until  the  distance  to  be  covered  is  so  short  that 
"  it  is  certain  the  objective  will  be  reached.  Every  time  that  the  infantry 
"  has  been  launched  to  the  attack  from  too  great  a  distance  before  the 
"  artillery  has  made  its  effect  felt,  the  infantry  has  fallen  under  the  fire  of 
"  machine  guns  and  suffered  losses  which  might  have  been  avoided. 

"  When  a  point  d'appui  has  been  captured,  it  must  be  organized  imme- 
"  diately,  the  troops  must  entrench,  and  artillery  must  be  brought  up." 

1  See  G.O.A.,  i.,  and  Note  II.  at  end  of  Chapter. 

2  For  Order  of  Battle,  see  Appendices  6  and  7.  In  round  numbers 
(G.O.A.  i.  p.  69),  1,600,000  ;  excluding  4  cavalry  corps  and  the  covering 
troops  in  Upper  Alsace  : 


First  Army    .          .          .          . 

Second  Army 

Third  Army  . 

Fourth  Army 

Fifth  Army    . 

Sixth  Army    . 

Seventh  Army 

.    320,000  men 
.    260,000     „ 
.     180,000     „ 
.     180,000     ,, 
.    200,000     „ 
.     220,000     „ 
.     125,000     „ 

1,485,000     „ 

In  addition  6^  mobile  Ersatz  divisions  (say  another  100,000  men),  which 
would  be  ready  on  the  12th  day  of  mobilization. 

^  The  continuous  fortifications  round  and  connecting  these  two  latter 
places  formed  the  so-called  Moselle  Position. 


46  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

17  Aug.  was  deployed  facing  the  Belgians  on  the  Gette.  In  order 
1914.  ^Q  reach  the  far  side  of  the  neutral  barrier  formed  by  the 
projecting  peninsula  of  Dutch  Limbourg,  behind  which  it 
had  been  assembled,  Kluck's  Army  had  defiled  in  three 
columns  through  Aix  la  Chapelle.  The  Supreme  Command 
(O.H.L.)  orders  directed  the  Armies  of  Kluck  (First)  and 
Biilow  (Second),  acting  together  under  the  latter  general/ 
to  deal  with  the  Belgian  Army,  to  force  it  away  from 
Antwerp  and  to  reach  the  line  Namur — Brussels.  The 
Fi7'st  Army  was  to  detail  a  detachment  to  mask  Antwerp, 
arid  by  holding  back  its  right  provide  against  a  British 
landing  on  the  coast.  Hausen's  (Third)  Army  was  to 
gain  the  line  of  the  Meuse  from  Givet  to  Namur.  Namur 
was  to  be  attacked  and  taken  as  soon  as  possible  by  the 
left  of  the  Second  and  the  right  of  the  Third  Army. 
Meanwhile,  the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  were  to  conform 
so  that  the  whole  five  Armies  on  the  right  might  carry  out 
a  gigantic  wheel,  first  to  the  line  Thionville— Brussels,  and 
then  in  a  south-westerly  direction,  Thionville  still  remaining 
the  pivot. 

The  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies,  under  the  senior  Army 
commander,  Crown  Prince  Rupprecht  of  Bavaria,  were 
given  as  their  principal  task  the  protection  of  the  left  flank 
of  the  five  wheeling  Armies.  How  they  could  do  so,  said 
the  instructions,  depended  on  the  action  of  the  enemy. 
If  the  French,  based  on  their  fortress  line,  remained  on 
the  strategic  defensive.  Crown  Prince  Rupprecht  was  to 
take  the  offensive,  "  advance  against  the  Moselle  below 
"  Frouard  (5  miles  below  Nancy)  and  the  Meurthe,  hold 
"  fast  the  French  troops  [First  and  Second  Armies]  as- 
"  sembled  there  and  hinder  their  transfer  to  the  French 
"  left  wing."  If,  on  the  other  hand,  the  French  moved 
against  his  front  in  superior  numbers,  and  he  had  to  give 
ground,  he  was  to  retire  to  a  prepared  position  on  the 
Nied,  which  was  flanked  by  Strasbourg  and  Metz.  If  the 
left  flank  of  the  wheeling  Armies  did  not  seem  to  be 
threatened,  part  of  the  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  might  be 
withdrawn  via  Metz  to  take  part  in  the  fighting  on  the  left 
bank  of  the  Moselle.^ 

^  The  order  of  the  17th  August  which  placed  Kluck  under  Bulow  was 
cancelled  on  the  27th,  but  reissued  on  the  10th  Sept. 

2  Crown  Prince  Rupjirecht  had  begun  a  retirement  on  14th  August, 
under  the  second  case,  keeping  in  touch  with  the  outer  defences  of  Metz  ; 
but  by  the  evening  of  the  17th  the  French  Second  Army  in  its  advance 
had  exposed  "  a  long-spread  and  visibly  thin  flank  towards  Metz,  which 
"  invited  a  blow,"   and  the  mass  of  that  Army  was  crowded  together 


THE  GERMAN  PLAN  47 

The  strategic  objective  was  to  outflank  the  French  by  17  Aug. 
the  west  and  drive  them  eastwards  against  the  Swiss  ^^i** 
frontier.  To  give  sufficient  weight  to  the  blow  which  was 
to  crush  the  Allies'  left,  roll  up  the  line  from  the  westward 
and,  in  conjunction  with  the  advance  of  the  Third,  Fourth 
and  Fifth  Armies,  push  the  entire  line  of  battle  south-east 
towards  neutral  territory,  five  of  the  ten  cavalry  divisions 
and  twenty-six  out  of  the  total  of  the  whole  seventy-two 
divisions  on  the  Western  Front  were  allotted  to  the  two 
Armies  under  General  von  Biilow.^ 

To  summarize  the  initial  movements  of  the  two 
belligerents,  we  find  that  the  French  offensive  carried  out 
by  the  Armies  of  Dubail  and  de  Castelnau  on  the  14th 
August  south  of  Metz  "  was  counter-attacked  by  the 
"  German  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  and  failed  tactically  "  : 
the  general  strategic  advantage  too  remained  with  the 
Germans  ;  for  their  345,000  men,  including  the  detachments 
in  Upper  Alsace,  contained  about  456,000  French.  The 
offensive  of  the  Armies  of  Ruffey  and  de  Langle  de  Gary 
north  of  Thionville,  commencing  on  the  21st  August,  en- 
countered the  German  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies,  which  had 
begun  on  the  17th  to  wheel  forward  to  the  line  Thionville — 
Givet,  so  that  two  Armies  met  two  Armies  of  about  equal 
strength ;  yet  the  French  suffered  a  number  of  small 
disasters. 

The  result  of  the  above  operations  was  distinctly,  but  Map  5. 
not  decisively,  in  favour  of  the  Germans.  This  however 
was  not  all.  Their  dispositions  left  three  Armies,  Hansen's, 
Billow's  and  Kluck's,  comprising  in  all  thirty-four  divisions, 
free  to  deal  with  Lanrezac's  Army  of  thirteen  divisions,  the 
tiny  British  Army  of  four  divisions,  and  the  almost  equally 
small  Belgian  Army  of  six  divisions — thirty-four  divisions 
against  twenty,   covering  a  frontier  destitute  of  natural 

between  Morhange  and  Sarrebourg.  Rupprecht  therefore  issued  orders, 
although  Moltke  was  in  favour  of  letting  the  French  come  further,  for 
a  "  lightning  and  surprise  attack,"  with  the  result  already  recorded. 
(Bavarian  Official  Account,  "  Die  Schlacht  in  Lothringen.") 

^  The  density  of  the  dilTerent  German  Armies  on  the  original  front  on 
the  17th  August  is  of  interest  : 

First  Army  front     18  miles,  about  18,000  men  per  mile. 
Second       „  20 


Third 

15 

12,000     „ 

Fourth 

30 

6,000     ,, 

Fifth 

40 

5,000     ,, 

Sixth 

70 

3,100     „ 

Seventh 

35 

3,500     „ 

48  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

obstacles,  guarded  only  by  obsolete  fortresses,  and  with  the 
shortest  and  most  direct  route  to  Paris  behind  it. 

The  first  step  in  the  German  plan  had  therefore  been 
successful,  as  regards  its  objectives  ;  the  line  laid  down  for 
the  first  stage  of  the  wheel  on  Thionville  had  been  reached, 
and  Liege  and  Namur  had  been  taken  ;  it  Avas  unsuccessful 
only  in  that  the  Belgian  Army  had  not  been  forced  away 
from  Antwerp,  which  it  entered,  after  rear-guard  fighting, 
on  the  20th.  Surprise  has  sometimes  been  expressed  that 
the  Germans  did  not  push  at  least  detachments  to  the 
Channel  ports  in  August  1914,  when  there  was  no  force 
available  to  oppose  them  except  some  French  Territorial 
units.  It  would  appear  that  they  had  intended  to  do  so, 
but  the  necessity  of  investing  the  Belgian  Army  in  Antwerp 
absorbed  the  two  corps,  ///.  Reserve  and  IX.  Reserve,  which 
had  been  selected  for  that  purpose.  Besides,  when  the 
opening  phase  of  the  campaign  was  going  so  nearly  accord- 
ing to  plan,  and  there  seemed  a  certainty  of  winning  the 
war  in  a  few  days  by  a  defeat  of  the  French  in  a  super- 
Sedan  in  the  open  field,  it  would  have  been  strategically 
unjustifiable  to  divert  a  single  man  to  seize  a  section  of 
coast,  which,  like  Italy  after  the  battle  of  Austerlitz,  must 
have  fallen  to  the  invaders  without  serious  conflict  directly 
the  main  decision  had  been  gained. 

THE    BRITISH    ENTRY    INTO    FRANCE 

12  Aug.  On  the  12th  August,  the  Commander-in-Chief,  retain- 

Sketeh  1.  ing  only  a  small  party  of  his  immediate  staff  with  him. 

Map  2.      despatched  General  Headquarters  (G.H.Q.)  from  London 

to  Southampton.    They  crossed  to  Havre  on  the  14th,  and 

proceeded  by  rail  early  on  the  16th,  reaching  Le  Cateau 

late  that  night. 

On  the  14th  August,  Sir  John  French  himself,  with  his 
party,  left  London.  He  arrived  at  Amiens  soon  after 
9  P.M.  An  hour  later,  General  Valabregue's  chief  staff 
officer  came  to  report  that  his  group,  the  53rd  and  69th 
Reserve  Divisions,  was  entrenching  south  of  the  Oise 
between  Vervins  and  Hirson,  as  a  second  line  to  the  French 
left. 

On  the  following  days,  15th,  16th  and  17th  August, 
the  Commander-in-Chief  proceeded  to  visit,  in  succession, 
the  French  Minister  of  War  at  Paris,  General  Joffre  at  the 
Grand  Quartier  General  (G.Q.G.)  at  Vitry  le  Frangois,  and 
General  Lanrezac  at  Fifth  Army  Headquarters  at  Rethel. 


ARRIVAL  OF  THE  B.E.F.  IN  FRANCE         49 

From  them  he  learned  in  some  detail  the  disposition  of  the  i4-i7Aug. 
French  forces  in  the  angle  formed  by  the  Sambre  and  the  ^^^4,' 
Meuse,  south-west  of  Namur.^  General  Lanrezac's  Army 
was  then  rapidly  concentrating  in  the  area  south  of 
Charleroi,  the  I.  Corps,  on  the  right,  being  already  massed 
between  Namur  and  Givet  ;  the  head  of  the  III.  Corps  was 
at  Philippeville,  and  that  of  the  X.  Corps  at  Bohain,  midway 
between  St.  Quentin  and  Le  Cateau.  The  XVIII.  Corps 
was  expected  to  begin  arriving  in  the  area  between  Bohain 
and  Avesnes  on  the  18th  and  19th.  General  Valabregue's 
divisions  were  in  position,  as  already  stated  above,  south  of 
Avesnes.  General  Sordet's  cavalry  corps  was  advancing 
j  again,  this  time  north-east,  from  Charleroi  and,  if  driven 
I!  back,  would  pass  to  the  left  of  the  British  Army.  The  task 
of  that  Army  was  to  move  northward  and  form  the  extreme 
left  of  the  French  advance. 

Throughout  this  period,  that  is  to  say  between  the 
12th  and  17th  August,  the  British  troops  had  been  passing 
across  the  Channel  and  disembarking  on  French  soil. 
All  was  ready  for  their  reception,  and  the  welcome  given 
to  them  by  the  inhabitants  was  enthusiastic.  On  the  14th 
and  following  days  the  corps  and  divisions  began  to  move 
up  by  train  to  the  areas  of  concentration,  which  were  Sketch  4. 
arranged  so  that  the  army  was  assembled  in  a  pear-shaped 
area  between  Maubeuge  and  Le  Cateau,  about  twenty-five 
miles  long  from  north-east  to  south-west,  and  averaging 
ten  miles  wide.  The  cavalry  was  at  the  north-eastern  end, 
ready  to  join  hands  with  the  French  Fifth  Army. 

In  detail,  the  areas  were  :  Map  3. 

Cavalry  :   East  of  Maubeuge,  Jeumont,  Damousies,  Cousolre. 

Divisional  Headquarters,  Aibes. 
II.  Corps  :   East  of  Landrecies.     Headquarters,  Landrecies. 
3rd  Division  :   Marbaix,  Taisnieres,  Noyelles. 
5th  Division  :   Maroilles,  Landrecies,  Ors. 
I.  Corps  :   East  of  Bohain.     Headquarters,  Wassigny. 
1st  Division  :   Boue,  Esqueheries,  Leschelles. 
2nd  Division  :   Grougis,  Mennevret,  Hannappes. 
The  Royal  Flying  Corps,  taking  the  field  in  war  for  the  first 
time,  assembled  four  squadrons,  with  105  officers,  755  other 
ranks,  and  63  aeroplanes  at  the  aerodrome  of  Maubeuge  ;  it  also 
formed  an  aircraft  park  at  Amiens. 

^  As  neither  General  Lanrezac  nor  Sir  John  French  could  speak  or 
fully  understand  the  other's  language,  a  good  personal  accord  was  not, 
unfortunately,  established  between  them  at  their  meeting.  See  Lan- 
rezac's "Le  Plan  de  Campagne  fran9ais,"  pp.  91-2  ;  French's  "  1914,"  pp. 
3G-7. 

VOL.  I  E 


50  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

20  Aug.  The  concentration  was  virtually  complete  on  the  20th, 
1914.  that  is  gix  days  late  according  to  French  reckoning,  owing 
to  the  various  delays  which  have  been  enumerated.  One 
sad  incident  marred  the  progress  to  the  scene  of  action, 
namely  the  death  of  Lieutenant-General  Sir  James  Grierson, 
commanding  the  II.  Corps,  who  expired  suddenly  in  the 
train  on  the  morning  of  the  17th.  Sir  John  French  asked 
that  Sir  Herbert  Plumer  might  take  General  Grierson' s 
place  ;  but  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War  decided  to  send 
Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien. 

On  the  19th  August,  G.H.Q.  was  informed  that  the  4th 
Division  would  be  despatched  from  England  immediately  ; 
and  it  was  settled  that  the  2/Royal  Welch  Fusiliers, 
1 /Scottish  Rifles,  1 /Middlesex  and  2/Argyll  and  Sutherland 
Highlanders,  which  had  been  employed  on  the  Lines  of 
Communication,  should  be  formed  into  the  19th  Brigade, 
under  Major-General  L.  G.  Drummond.  On  the  same  day 
the  Flying  Corps  carried  out  its  first  reconnaissances  from 
Maubeuge  northward  towards  Brussels,  and  north-west  over 
Tournai  and  Courtrai.  No  large  bodies  of  troops  were 
seen.  On  the  20th  the  cavalry  was  pushed  forward  as  far 
as  Binche  on  the  north  without  encountering  any  enemy. 
But  an  aerial  reconnaissance  that  day  observed  a  column 
of  troops  stretching  through  Louvain  as  far  as  the  eye 
could  reach.  This  was  a  column  of  the  German  First 
Army.  Diverting  one  of  his  corps,  the  ///.  Reserve, 
followed  later  by  the  IX.  Reserve  Corps  and  the  equivalent 
of  five  divisions,^  to  follow  the  Belgian  forces  towards 
Antwerp,  Kluck  was  pressing  westward.  On  this  day,  the 
20th,  his  troops  entered  Brussels.  It  was  a  fateful  day 
in  many  respects,  for  during  its  course  the  main  Belgian 
Army  retired  into  Antwerp,  the  Germans  approached  with- 
in decisive  range  of  Namur,  and  General  Joffre  gave  his 
orders  for  the  general  advance. 

In  this  great  movement,  the  outline  of  which  has 
already  been  given,  the  British  were  to  advance  on  the 
left  of  the  Fifth  Army  north-east,  by  way  of  Soignies,  in 
the  general  direction  of  Nivelles.  If  Kluck  wheeled  south- 
ward from  Brussels,  it  was  not  anticipated  that  his  right 
would  extend  much  beyond  Mons,  If,  therefore,  the  British 
were  in  line  about  this  place,  they  would  be  ready,  when 
once  General  Lanrezac  had  passed  the  Sambre,  to  wheel 
eastward  and  envelop  the  right  of  the  Germans.  To  make 
this  envelopment  the  more  certain.  General  Sordet's  cavalry 

1  See  f.n.  1,  page  36. 


SKETCH     4. 


ADVANCE  OF  THE  B.E.F.  TO  MONS  51 

corps,  which  had  on  this  day  fallen  back  across  the  Sambre  20  Aug. 
,,  to    Fontaine    I'Eveque    (midway    between    Charleroi    and    i^^"*- 
y  Binche),  was  directed  to  take  position  beyond  the  left  of 
the  British.     Still  further  to  the  west,  the  three  French 
Territorial    divisions,    under    the    command    of    General 
d'Amade,  were  to  push  gradually  forward.^ 

The  initiative  seemed  to  be  passing  into  the  hands  of  Sketches 
the  Germans,  and  it  was  urgent  to  ascertain  by  aerial  and  ^  *^  ^• 
other  reconnaissance  what  use,  if  any,  they  were  making  of  &  3^^^ 
it.  IMeanwhile,  in  pursuance  of  General  Joffre's  plan, 
G.H.Q.  on  the  evening  of  the  20th  issued  orders  ^  for  a 
movement  northward  during  the  three  ensuing  days. 
An  attached  march  table  gave  the  approximate  positions 
to  be  reached  each  day.  The  general  effect  of  these 
orders  when  executed  would  be  that  the  23rd  August 
would  find  the  Army  aligned  on  a  front,  roughly  facing 
north-east,  from  Estinne  au  Mont  (near  Binche)  on  the 
south-east,  to  Lens,  eight  miles  north  of  Mons,  on  the  north- 
west, with  the  Cavalry  Division  (Major-General  E.  H.  H. 
Allenby)  on  the  left,  while  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade 
(Br.-General  Sir  P.  W.  Chetwode),  having  covered  the 
right  flank  during  the  movement,  would  find  itself  finally 
in  advance  of  the  right  front.  The  daily  moves  were  to  be 
as  follows  : 

The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  to  proceed  on  the  21st 
to  the  neighbourhood  of  Binche,  the  right  of  the  line,  and 
there  remain  ;  the  Cavalry  Division,  moving  on  the  left 
of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  was  to  march  level  with  it  on  the 
21st,  and  on  the  22nd  proceed  to  Lens,  the  left  of  the  line, 
where  it  would  halt  astride  the  road  that  connects  Mons  and 
Ath.  Covered  by  the  cavalry,  the  rest  of  the  Army  was 
to  advance.^ 

On  the  21st  the  II.  Corps  to  the  line  Goegnies — Bavai ;  the 
I.  Corps  to  the  line  Avesnes — Landrecies. 

On  the  22nd  the  II.  Corps  north-westward  to  the  line  from 
Mons  westward  to  Thulin  ;  the  I.  Corps  north-eastward  to  the 
line  Hautmont — Hargnies. 

On  the  23rd  the  II.  Corps  was  to  wheel  eastwards,  so  that  one 
division  would  be  in  rear  of  the  other,  with  the  front  east  of 
Mons  between  Spiennes  and  St.  Denis  ;  the  I.  Corps  was  to 
incline  north-eastward  and  come  up  on  the  right  of  the  II., 

^  For  further  information  as  regards  General  d'Amade's  force,  see 
Note  II.  at  end  of  Chapter  IV. 

^  Appendix  10. 

3  The  positions  of  troops  are  always  given  from  right  to  left,  unless 
otherwise  stated. 


52  THE  OUTBREAK  OF  WAR 

on  a  line  from  Estinne  au  Mont  westward  to  Harmignies  (im- 
mediately south-east  of  Spiennes). 

21  Aug.  The  morning  of  the  21st  broke  thick  and  misty,  render- 
1914.  jj^g  aerial  reconnaissance  impossible  until  the  afternoon. 
The  cavalry  moved  northwards  early,  and  after  reaching 
Villers  St.  Ghislain  (six  miles  south-east  of  Mons)  heard 
that  German  cavalry  was  in  force  five  miles  to  the  north- 
ward. A  patrol  which  entered  Mons  found  a  similar  report 
current  there.  The  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  (Br.-General 
H.  de  B.  de  Lisle),  after  crossing  the  Conde  canal  east  of 
Mons,  occupied  a  line  on  both  banks  from  Maurage  to 
Obourg.  Patrols  of  the  9th  Lancers  and  4th  Dragoon 
Guards  sighted  German  patrols  in  the  vicinity  of  the  two 
bridges  east  of  Mons,  those  of  Nimy  and  Obourg  ;  but 
contact  was  not  established.  Information  from  peasants, 
however,  pointed  to  the  movement  of  considerable  forces 
southward  from  Soignies  (10  miles  north-east  of  Mons), 

The  II.  Corps  followed  the  cavalry  to  a  line  level  with 
and  west  of  Maubeuge,  the  3rd  Division,  on  the  right,  to 
the  line  Bettignies— Feignies — La  Longueville,  and  the  5th 
Division,  on  the  left,  to  the  line  Houdain — St.  Waast — 
Gommegnies.  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien  reached  Bavai 
from  England  at  4  p.m.  and  took  over  command  of  the 
corps.  The  outposts  of  the  9th  Brigade  on  this  evening 
overlooked  the  old  battlefield  of  Malplaquet,  and  were 
found  by  the  Lincolnshire  Regiment  which,  together  with 
the  Royal  Scots  Fusiliers,  had  fought  in  the  action,  two 
hundred  years  before. 

The  I.  Corps  simultaneously  moved  up  to  the  line  from 
Avesnes  to  Landrecies,  about  ten  miles  behind  the  front 
of  the  II.,  the  1st  Division  on  the  right,  and  the  2nd  on 
the  left.  The  day  was  sultry  and  many  of  the  reservists 
suffered  in  consequence  ;  a  considerable  number  of  men 
were  still  feeling  the  effects  of  inoculation,  and  all  found  the 
hard  irregular  surface  of  the  cobbled  roads  extremely  trying 
for  marching.  In  the  afternoon  the  weather  cleared  and 
the  Flying  Corps  was  able  to  carry  out  reconnaissances. 
Map  5.  It  reported  a  large  body  of  cavalry  with  some  infantry 
and  guns  south-east  of  Nivelles.  This  intelligence  was 
confirmed,  and  the  formation  identified  as  the  German 
9th  Cavalry  Division,  by  a  British  intelligence  officer  who 
was  in  Nivelles  when  the  division  entered,  but  escaped  by 
motor.  The  presence  of  two  more  cavalry  divisions  was 
ascertained  ;    one  of  them,  the  2nd,  had  pushed  parties 


ADVANCE  OF  THE  B.E.F.  TO  MONS  53 

far  to  the  westward,  which  had  reached  the  hne  Ghent —  21  Aug. 
Audenarde,  being  evidently  intended  to  explore  the  area  ^^i^* 
as  far  as  the  sea.  The  other  division,  supposed  to  be 
the  4ih,  was  between  Charleroi  and  Seneffe.^  These  three 
cavalry  divisions  formed  the  German  //.  Cavalry  Corps 
under  General  von  der  Marwitz.^  The  main  German  line 
was  reported  as  extending  south-east  from  Grammont, 
through  Enghien,  Nivelles,  Genappes  and  Sombreffe  to 
Charleroi.  It  is  now  known  that  from  right  to  left — that 
is  to  say  from  north-west  to  south-east — the  order  of  the 
German  corps  was  IV.  (with  //.  echeloned  behind  it), 
///.,  IX.,  VII.,  X.  and  Guard  Corps,  with  four  Reserve 
corps  in  rear  of  them.  The  Allied  High  Command  was 
correctly  informed  as  to  the  actual  number  of  German 
corps  in  Belgium  ;  but  it  could  do  no  more  than  forecast 
the  scope  of  the  movement  in  progress.  Part  of  Kluck's 
cavalry  at  least,  and  possibly  some  of  his  infantry  had 
begun  a  wheel  south-westwards  from  Brussels.  Whether 
he  intended  to  continue  in  that  direction  or  sweep  further 
westwards,  it  was  as  yet  impossible  to  judge  on  the  available 
information.  On  the  British  right,  General  Lanrezac's 
Army  was  in  contact  with  infantry  of  the  German  Second 
Army  along  the  whole  line  of  the  Sambre  on  either  side 
of  Charleroi,  from  Tamines  to  Pont  a  Celles,  so  that  hard 
fighting  in  that  quarter  on  the  morrow  was  almost  certain. 
There  seemed  every  chance  that  it  might  spread  further  to 
the  west. 

At  2.45  P.M.  G.H.Q.  ordered  the  cavalry  to  close  the 
line  between  the  French  left  and  Mons  :  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  to  take  up  a  line  from  the  left  of  General  Sordet's 
cavalry  corps  at  Fontaine  I'l^veque  to  Peronnes,  in  front 
of  Binche,  and  the  Cavalry  Division  to  prolong  that  line 
to  the  canal  at  Boussoit  (five  miles  east  of  Mons)  with 
another  brigade,  the  3rd  (Br. -General  H.  de  la  P. 
Gough).  Thence  patrols  were  to  be  pushed  out  north  and 
north-east.  Operation  orders,  issued  from  G.H.Q.  shortly 
before  midnight,^  directed  that  the  march  table  issued  on 
the  20th  would  hold  good  for  the  22nd,  with  two  modifica- 
tions :  the  outposts   of  the  II.  Corps,  instead  of  having 

^  The  4th  Cavalry  Division  was  on  the  Hne  mentioned  about  midday  on 
the  20th,  and  on  the  21st  was  moving  westwards  from  Soignies  towards 
Ath  ;   otherwise  identifications  were  qiute  correct.     Poseck,  Map. 

*  The  corps,  after  concentrating  near  Ath,  was  sent  north-westwards 
towards  the  coast,  in  front  of  the  right  flank  of  the  First  Army,  to  look  for 
the  British  army.     Poseck,  p.  35. 

'  Appendices  11  and  12. 


54      ALLEGED  GERMAN  TROOP  MOVEMENTS 

their  right  on  Mons,  were  now  to  hold  an  angle  with  Mons 
in  the  apex — that  is  from  Givry  north-westward  to  Nimy 
and  thence  westward  along  the  canal  to  Pommeroeul ;  and 
as  soon  as  they  had  relieved  the  Cavalry  Division,  the  latter 
was  to  move  westward  to  a  position  in  echelon  behind 
the  left,  in  the  area  comprised  within  the  triangle  Thulin 
— Quievrain — Baisieux,  with  outposts  along  the  line  of 
the  canal  from  the  left  of  the  II.  Corps  to  Conde.  It  was 
still  the  intention  that  the  British  Army  should  take  the 
offensive. 

NOTE  I 

Alleged  German  Troop  Movements  before  Mobilization 

Some  further  information  with  regard  to  the  Potsdam  Conference 
of  the  5th  and  6th  July  1914  has  been  pubhshed  in  "  Stenographisehe 
"  Berichte  iiber  die  offenthchen  Verhandlungen  des  Untersuchungs- 
"  ausschusses  der  verfassunggebenden  deutschen  Nationalver- 
"  sammlung,"  the  shorthand  reports  of  the  Commission  ordered  by 
the  German  National  Assembly  to  take  evidence  on  matters  affecting 
critical  periods  of  the  war.  One  of  the  terms  of  reference  was  : 
"  It  is  to  be  ascertained  what  political  and  military  proceedings  took 
"  place  in  Berlin  or  Potsdam  on  the  5th  and  6th  July  1914." 

In  the  evidence  there  given,  General  von  FalkenhajTi  states  that 
the  Kaiser,  on  the  afternoon  of  the  5th,  warned  him  that  the  Army 
should  be  ready  for  all  emergencies.  Admiral  Capelle  and  Admiral 
Behnke,  temporary  Chief  of  the  Staff,  Admiralty,  were  similarly 
warned  ;  these  two  officers  then  arranged  to  make  such  "  intellectual 
"  preparations  "  (intellektuele  Vorbereitungen)  as  were  possible  without 

arousing  suspicion.    Admiral  Behnke  then  describes  what  was  done: 

the  mobilization  orders,  etc.,  were  carefully  gone  through  and  got 
ready,  steps  were  taken  for  the  immediate  preparation  of  ships  and 
auxiUary  vessels,  all  ships  filled  up  with  fuel,  the  movements  of  ships 
arranged  in  accordance  with  the  situation,  etc. 

No  evidence  of  the  exact  military  measures  taken  was  asked  for 
or  given  at  the  Commission.  An  article  in  the  "  Revue  Militaire 
"Generale  "  of  September  1919,  however,  gives  a  large  number  of 
extracts  from  captured  German  diaries  and  interrogations  of  prisoners 
which  tend  to  shew  that  inobilization  orders  were  issued  secretly 
some  days  before  the  31st  July  ;  men  on  leave  were  recalled,  the 
brigades  on  the  frontiers  intended  for  the  surprise  of  Liege  were 
brought  up  to  war  strength  by  the  recall  of  reservists,  and  Landsturm 
battalions  were  formed  on  31st  July  to  replace  active  troops  in 
guarding  the  frontier,  railways,  etc.  There  would  thus  seem  no 
room  for  doubt  that  in  a  variety  of  ways  Germany  gained  a  most 
valuable  start  of  several  days  on  her  opponents. 

The  above  three  paragraphs  appeared  in  the  original  edition. 
The  ReichsarcMv,  however,  states  with  reference  to  fhem  that  no 
mobilization  took  place  in  Germany  before  the  1st  August  and  that 
the  Landsturm  in  the  frontier  districts  was  called  out  on  the  same 
date,  not  on  the  31st  July  :  the  troops  employed  against  Liege  were 
at  peace  strength  [in  1913  the  peace  strength  of  the  infantry  battahons 


ALLEGED  GERMAN  TROOP  MOVEMENTS      55 

of  the  frontier  regions  had  been  raised  from  663  to  800].  Movements 
of  men  and  troops  were  those  made  in  consequence  of  the  proclamation 
of  "  Imminent  Danger  of  War." 

The  Reichsarchiv  official  history  of  the  German  railways  in  the 
war  ("  Das  deutsche  Feldeisenbahnwesen,"  i.,  p.  28)  reads  as  follows  : 

"  As  the  political  situation  became  acute,  the  Imperial  Chancellor 
'  von  Bethmann-HoUweg,  on  the  28th  July  put  into  force,  in  the 
'  areas  near  the  frontier  and  in  the  Berlin  railway  district,  '  the 
'  '  augmented  railway  protection,'  provided  for  times  of  political 
'  tension.  It  affected  principally  the  guarding  of  the  more  important 
'  bridges,  tunnels  and  other  engineering  structures  on  the  lines 
'  required  for  mobilization  and  deployment,  and  was  carried  out 
'  by  railway  employees,  assisted  by  the  normal  machinery  of  public 
'  safety,  and,  so  far  as  the  watching  of  bridges  from  the  water,  by  the 
'  conservancy  authorities. 

"  On  the  same  day  the  recall  was  ordered  of  all  bodies  of  troops 
'  absent  from  their  garrisons  which  on  mobilization  should  be  ready 
'  to  leave  '  at  once  '  or  '  at  short  notice  '  for  the  duty  of  frontier 
'  protection  or  for  certain  definite  special  tasks.  The  return  of  all 
'  other  troops  absent  on  marches  or  at  training  grounds  followed 
'  on  the  evening  of  the  29th.  On  this  day  also  orders  were  issued 
'  for  the  military  guarding  of  the  larger  bridges  and  engineer  struc- 
'  tures  on  the  railways  and  waterways  in  the  frontier  areas. 

"  On  the  30th  July  the  state  of  '  Alert  '  for  the  German  fleet 
'  was  ordered  ;  this  required  the  provision  of  a  few  trains  for  the 
'  Active  troops  detailed  for  the  protection  of  the  North  Sea  islands. 
'  On  the  proclamation  of  '  Imminent  Danger  of  War  '  at  1  p.m.  on 
'  the  31st  July,  all  the  measures  settled  on  in  times  of  peace  for  the 
'  military  guarding  of  the  railways  came  into  force." 

General  von  Moser  (commander  of  the  53rd  Brigade)  in  his 
'  Kampf  und  Siegestage  1914  "  (Mittler,  Berlin,  1915),  page  1,  says  : 

"  On  the  29th  July  early  the  order  '  Return  to  Garrison  '  reached 
'  us  on  the  troop  training  ground,  where  we  had  assembled  on  the 
'  previous  day  for  regimental  and  brigade  training.  On  the  1st 
'  August  '  Last  Preparations  for  taking  the  Field.'  On  the  2nd 
'  August  (first  day  of  mobilization)  the  brigade,  reinforced  by  a 
'  squadron  and  3  batteries,  left  at  9  a.m.  on  frontier  protection  duty." 

The  regimental  history  of  the  Isl  Jdger  Battalion,  "  Im  Yorckschen 
Geist,"  pages  5-6,  contains  the  following  : 

"  It  was  a  relief  to  everyone  from  the  company  commander  to 
'  the  youngest  rifleman  when  on  the  30th  July  the  commanding 
'  officer,  Lieut. -Colonel  Modrow,  suddenly  paraded  the  battalion  on 
'  the  barrack  square,  announced  the  state  of  '  Imminent  Danger 
'  '  of  War  '  [not  publicly  proclaimed  until  next  day],  and  in  glowing 
'  words  reminded  officers,  N.C.O.'s  and  men  of  their  oath  and  their 
'  duty  to  their  country.  With  heavy  heart,  he  at  the  same  time 
'  bade  farewell  to  the  battalion.  He  was  entrusted  with  the  com- 
'  mand  of  the  59th  Reserve  Infantry  Regiment.  Major  Weigeit 
'  succeeded  him  in  command  of  the  battalion.  The  companies  were 
'  on  the  spot  clothed  and  equipped  for  war.  Every  man  received 
'  150  rounds  of  ammunition.  ,  .  .  In  exactly  two  hours  the  battalion 
'  was  ready  to  march  off.  .  .  .  The  four  companies  marched  about 
'  2  P.M.  to  occupy  the  line  of  obstacles  (Hindernislinie)  which  ran 
'  parallel  to  the  frontier,  a  few  kilometres  east  of  Ortelsburg,  through 
'  the  thick  woods,  and  was  intended,  in  case  of  war,  to  offer  the 


56  THE  SCHLIEFFEN  PLAN 

"  first  resistance  to  the  Russian  advanced  troops.  .  .  .  The  machine- 
"  gun  company  and  cycHst  company  remained  in  Ortelsburg  in 
"  alarm  quarters  at  the  disposal  of  the  battalion  commander.  Here, 
"  as  in  the  blockhouse  line  in  front,  an  always  increasing  state  of 
"  nervous  tension  soon  made  itself  observed." 

In  the  market  place  of  Treis,  on  the  Moselle,  a  place  visited  by 
British  officers  during  the  occupation  of  the  Rhineland,  is  a  War 
Memorial  to  302  men  of  the  village,  on  which  appears  the  words  : 

"  Auf  dieser  Stelle  traten  an  31.7.14  abends  um  8|  Uhr  unsere 
"  ersten  Kampfer  ein."  ("  On  this  spot  our  first  fighting  men  fell 
"  in  at  8.30  p.m.  on  the  31.7.14.") 

If  the  date  is  correct  these  men  "  fell  in  "  two  days  before  the 
first  day  of  mobilization. 

In  the  captured  papers  of  Captain  von  Papen  (in  1914  German 
military  attache  at  Washington)  was  found  a  letter  from  a  bank, 
the  Disconto-Gesellschaft,  Potsdam  branch,  signed  "  R.  Mimel," 
dated  25th  July  1914  (postmark,  Potsdam  7  p.m.  of  same  day),  in 
which  occurs  the  sentence  :  "  We  have  never  before  seen  such 
"  preparations  for  war  as  are  being  made  at  present."  ^ 


NOTE  II 

The  Schlieffen  Plan  " 

The  strategical  conception  underlying  the  initial  deployment  of 
the  German  Armies  on  the  Western  Front,  and  the  invasion  of 
Luxembourg,  Belgium  and  France,  were  founded  on  what  is  known 
as  the  "  ScWieffen  Plan."  Field-Marshal  Graf  Alfred  Schlieffen 
became  Chief  of  the  Prussian  General  Staff  in  1890,  in  almost  im- 
mediate succession  to  Moltke  tlje  elder,  Graf  Waldersee  having  held 
the  post  for  a  little  over  one  year  between  them.  Just  before  vacating 
office  in  favour  of  Moltke  the  younger,  in  December  1905,  Schlieffen 
drew  up  a  Memoir  (Denkschrift)  for  the  benefit  of  his  successor.  He 
had  already,  ten  years  earlier,  departed  from  the  basis  of  Moltke 
the  elder's  plan  in  the  event  of  a  two-front  war,  which  was  to  attack 
Russia  and  stand  on  the  defensive  in  the  Western  theatre.  The  Memoir 
has  never  been  published  in  extenso  :  only  extracts  from  it  are  given 
in  the  German  Official  Account  ;  but  some  other  parts  of  it  have 
been  disclosed  by  authoritative  writers.*     In   1905   Russia  ha^^ng 

^  The  first  financial  war  measure  appears  to  have  been  taken  on  18th 
June  1914,  when  the  President  of  the  Reichsbank,  "  with  special  emphasis," 
recommended  the  directors  of  the  leading  Berlin  banks  to  increase  the 
cover  of  their  foreign  securities  by  10  per  cent.  From  2nd  July  en- 
deavours were  made  to  increase  the  gold  reserve  by  "  drawing  in  and 
"  holding  foreign  capital."  "  Financial  readiness "  was  not  officially 
ordered  until  31st  July  when  "  Imminent  Danger  of  War  "  was  declared. 
(G.O.A.,  K.U.K.,  i.  pp.  472-7.) 

2  See  G.O.A.,  i.  pp.  49-69,  and  Bredt,  Moltke,  Kuhl,  Tappen,  Baum- 
garten-Crusius,  Foerster's  "  Graf  Schlieffen  und  der  Weltkrieg,"  Rochs' 
"  Schlieffen." 

*  Notably  by  Dr.  J.  V.  Bredt,  Member  of  the  Feichstag  and  of  its 
Committee  which  enquired  into  the  loss  of  the  war,  in  his  "  Die  belgische 
"  Neutralitat  und  der  schlieffensche  Feldzugsplan."  There  is  a  mass  of 
literature  on  the  subject. 


THE  SCHLIEFFEN  PLAN  57 

only  just  emerged  from  the  Manchurian  war,  Schlieffcn  in  his  plan 
"  dealt  exclusively  \\ath  a  war  against  France  and  England  "  (G.O.A.). 
The  object  was  the  annihilation  of  the  French  Armies  and  any  British 
troops  that  might  be  with  them  ;  and  the  whole  resources  of  Germany 
were  to  be  devoted  to  this  single  purpose.  If,  however,  it  turned 
out  to  be  necessary  to  fight  on  the  Eastern  Front  as  well  as  on  the 
Western,  ten  divisions,  Schlieffen  wrote,  drawn  "  proportionately  " 
from  the  Groups  of  Armies  allotted  to  the  latter,  should  be  detailed. 

He  calculated  that  26i  corps,  14  Reserve  corps,  8  new  Ersatz 
corps  and  11  cavalry  divisions  were  required  to  ensure  success.^ 
The  actual  mobilization  strength  at  the  time  he  wrote  was  23|  corps, 
20  Reserve  divisions  not  organized  in  corps  (except  one),^  and  11 
cavalry  divisions  ;  but  he  indicated  how  the  balance  could  gradually 
be  raised.  By  1914  the  numbers  had  increased  to  26  corps,  13^ 
Reserve  corps,  6i  Ersatz  divisions  (not  corps)  and  11  cavalry  divisions. 
In  this  interval,  however,  the  French  Army  had  also  increased  ; 
Russia,  too,  had  growTi  strong  again  ;  and  although  only  9  divisions, 
not  10,  were  allotted  by  Moltke  to  the  Eastern  Front,  "  in  the  end, 
"  the  relative  strength  turned  out  to  be  more  unfavourable  than  the 
"  Memoir  had  assumed."  (G.O.A.)  In  fact,  in  August  1914  Moltke 
had  for  the  Western  Front  20|  divisions  less  than  Schlieffen  had 
counted  upon. 

Schlieffen  divided  his  forces  into  two  unequal  wings,  in  the 
proportion  of  7  to  1,  on  either  side  of  the  great  fortified  area  of 
Metz — Thionville.  The  larger  mass,  after  deploying  on  the  general 
line  Crefeld — Metz,  was  to  make  the  gigantic  left  wheel  already 
mentioned,  not  only  across  Belgium,  but  across  "  South  Holland  " 
and  the  so-called  "  Limburg  Appendix,"  the  narrow  40-mile-long 
strip  of  Dutch  territory  which  projects  southwards  and  covers  part 
of  the  Belgian  frontier  against  Germany.^ 

To  condense  what  is  known  of  the  plan  :    by  the  22nd  day  of  Sketch  1. 
mobilization  (23rd  August  in  1914),  the  five  Armies  of  the  right 
wing  were  expected  to  reach  the  line  Thionville — Sedan — Mons — • 
Ghent  ;    by  the  31st  day  (1st   September),   the  line  Thionville — • 
Rethel — La  Fere — Amiens.* 

Then — provision  having  been  made  for  the  investment  of  Antwerp, 
"  where  the  English  may  have  landed  " — whilst  the  other  Armies  of 
this  wing  held  their  ground,  or  advanced  methodically  by  siege 
methods  (the  Second  Army,  in  particular,  digging  in  on  the  line  of 
the  Oise  or  of  the  Oise — Aisne,  thus  covering  Paris  on  the  north), 
the  First  Army,  always  trying  to  outflank  the  French  by  the  west, 

^  Landwehr  and  Landslurm  formations  are  omitted. 

'  The  Guard  Reserve  Corps  consisted  of  1  Active  and  1  Reserve  division, 

'  Moltke's  "  Erinnerungen,"  p.  17.  Captain  van  Voorst,  of  the 
Netherlands  General  Staff,  in  "  Over  Roermund,"  has  stated  that  in  1914 
maps  were  issued  to  formations  of  the  German  First  Army  showing  the 
routes  to  be  followed  through  Dutch  territory  south  of  Grave — Hertogen- 
bosch — Tilburg — Turnhout.  It  is  worth  looking  at  Map  2  to  see  where 
the  routes  thus  delimited  would  bring  a  German  Army  :  it  is  to  Antwerp, 
behind  the  Belgian  Army  deployed  on  the  frontier,  and  to  the  Channel 
coast  ports. 

In  view  of  possible  violation  of  their  frontier,  the  Netherlands  Govern- 
ment ordered  the  railway  bridges  in  the  Appendix  to  be  prepared  for 
demolition  on  2Gth  July  1914. 

*  This  was  actually  accomplished  in  1914,  the  time  lost  by  the  Belgian 
resistance  having  been  regained  by  the  rapid  retirement  of  the  French. 


58  THE  SCHLIEFFEN  PLAN 

was  to  sweep  over  the  lower  Seine,  past  the  west  of  Paris  and  round 
by  the  south.  It  was  to  be  followed  by  six  Ersatz  corps,  which  would 
complete  the  investment  of  the  capital.  When  they  were  in  position, 
the  First  Army,  reinforced  by  every  division  which  could  be  spared 
from  other  Armies,  possibly  by  part  of  the  left  wing  brought  round 
by  train,  was  "  to  advance  eastwards  and  drive  the  French  by  attack 
"  on  their  left  flank  against  their  Moselle  fortresses,  against  the  Jura 
"  and  against  Switzerland.  The  essential  for  the  execution  of  the 
"  operation  as  a  whole  is  the  formation  of  a  strong  right  wing,  by 
"  whose  assistance  the  battles  will  be  won,  and  the  enemy  forced 
"  to  give  ground  again  and  again  by  a  relentless  pursuit."  (G.O.A., 
i.  p.  58.)  "  Everything  was  risked  on  the  strength  and  rapidity  of 
"  the  first  blow."     (General  von  Seeckt  in  a  lecture  delivered  in  1928.) 

If  the  French  advanced  to  the  attack,  even  broke  into  Alsace- 
Lorraine,  so  much  the  better  for  the  success  of  the  German  plan  ; 
it  would  in  fact  be  "  a  kind  service  "  (Liebesdienst)  if  they  did  so, 
for  they  would  walk,  as  they  did,  into  the  trap  set  for  them.  Indeed, 
unless  they  advanced  there  could  not  be  a  "  Cannae  "  and  it  was 
with  this  battle  of  annihilation,  on  which  he  had  written  a  book, 
in  his  mind  that  Schlieffen  drafted  his  plan. 

There  was  to  be  no  ultimatum  to  Belgium  or  to  Holland.  The 
right  of  the  German  Armies  was  at  first  to  deploy  on  the  Dutch- 
Belgian  frontier  without  any  notification.  This  would  give  a  hint 
of  the  German  intentions,  and  it  was  assumed  that  the  French  would 
take  covmter-measures.  In  Schlieffen's  opinion  these  could  only  be 
the  occupation  of  the  natural  defensive  position  along  the  Meuse 
south  of  Namur.  Thus  the  French  would  be  the  first  to  violate 
Belgian  neutrality.     (Bredt,  p.  52.) 

In  any  case,  Schlieffen  appears  to  have  thought  that  there  would 
be  no  difficulty  in  obtaining  permission  from  the  King  of  the  Belgians, 
Leopold  II.,  to  traverse  his  territory  ;  he  would  make  a  protest  and 
accept  monetary  compensation.^  Similarly,  "  he  did  not  consider 
"  it  out  of  the  question,  in  view  of  the  political  situation  [in  1905, 
"  that  is  soon  after  the  S.  African  War]  that  Germany  on  outbreak 
"  of  war  against  England  would  have  no  difficulty  in  obtaining 
"  permission  by  an  amicable  arrangement  with  the  Netherlands 
"  Government,  for  the  German  Army  to  cross  the  Dutch  province 
"  of  Limbourg  (Maestricht,  Roermund).  Then  the  [Belgian]  fortress 
"  of  Liege  could  be  avoided  by  passing  north  of  it,  and  quickly 
"  brought  to  surrender  by  threatening  it  from  the  rear."  (Bredt, 
p.  53.) 

To  the  German  left  wing  Schlieffen  assigned  no  more  than  3J 
corps,  IJ  Reserve  corps  and  3  cavalry  divisions,  in  addition  to  the 
war  garrisons  (2  Reserve  divisions)  of  Metz  and  Strasburg,  3J  Land- 
wehr  mixed  brigades  on  the  Upper  Rhine,  and  one  brigade  in  Lower 
Alsace.  This  small  force  was  not,  however,  to  stand  on  the  defensive  : 
3  corps,  a  Reserve  corps  and  the  3  cavalry  divisions  "  were  from  the 
"  outset  to  be  employed  in  an  attack  on  Nancy  "  (G.O.A.,  i.  p.  59)  ; 
their  business  was  to  attract  as  many  French  troops  as  possible.  If 
the  French  did  not  counter-attack,  two  corps  were  to  be  shipped 
off  by  train  to  the  right  wing  in  Belgium  (G.O.A.,  i.  p.  60).  Other 
versions,  however,  speak  of  an  attack  by  the  left  wing  taking  place 

^  The  Germans  issued  a  proclamation  on  entering  Belgium  promising 
to  pay  for  ever>i;hing  in  "  minted  gold."  The  proclamation  is  in  "  Liittich- 
Namur,"  pp.  14-15. 


THE  SCHLIEFFEN  PLAN  59 

at  some  later  stage  of  the  proceedings  in  order  to  bring  about  a 
"  colossal  Cannae."  Schlieffen's  biographer,  Dr.  Rochs,  states  the 
Field-Marshal  "  kept  the  plan  [of  thus  using  the  left  wing]  in  his 
"  eye  in  order  to  execute  it  in  the  course  of  the  campaign,  and  thus 
"  achieve  the  complete  rounding  up  of  the  Franco-British  forces." 
We  shall  see  that  Moltke  attempted  to  do  so. 

It  was  easier  to  sketch  out  such  an  academic  plan  of  campaign, 
with  complete  contempt  of  the  enemy  and  neutrals,  than  to  carry 
it  out  in  the  field,  and  the  unfortunate  Moltke  was  forced  to  make 
modifications  in  it.^  In  the  period  that  the  changes  were  made, 
1908-9,  Colonel  Ludendorff  was  head  of  the  Operations  Section  of 
the  Great  General  Staff.     (Bredt,  p.  50,  f.n.  44.) 

First,  ]\Ioltke  gave  up  the  idea  of  marching  through  Holland,  "  in 
"  order  not  to  force  the  Netherlands  also  into  the  ranks  of  our 
"  enemies."  (Moltke,  p.  17.) "  It  was  not  expected  that  Belgium 
would  offer  armed  opposition  to  a  march  across  her  territory.  But 
the  dropping  of  the  plan  of  entering  Holland  forced  the  extreme 
German  right,  the  First  and  Second  Armies  to  pass  between  Aachen 
(Aix  la  Chapelle)  and  the  southern  end  of  the  Limburg  Appendix. 
To  ensure  the  rapid  passage  of  this  defile  it  was  necessary  to  gain 
possession  of  Liege  as  quickly  as  possible.  It  was  most  important 
not  to  give  the  Belgians  time  to  put  the  fortress  in  a  state  of  defence 
and  destroy  the  important  railway  bridges  near  it.  Moltke  feared 
that  this  could  not  be  done  by  an  "  accelerated  artillery  attack  " 
and  therefore  decided  to  take  Liege  by  a  coup  de  main  carried  out 
by  frontier  troops  on  peace  establishment,  without  mobilization, 
immediately  on  outbreak  of  war.  "  For  the  execution  of  this  coup 
"  de  main  two  days  and  the  following  night  were  allowed  in  the 
"  appreciation."  (Bredt,  p.  54.)  If  this  failed,  it  was  left  to  the 
commander  of  the  Second  Army  to  decide  whether  to  try  again 
with  stronger  forces,  or  proceed  to  "  accelerated  siege  methods." 
How  long  these  might  take  is  not  stated  in  the  scheme.^ 

The  other  and  more  important  change  was  as  regards  the  strength 
of  the  left  wing.  In  view  of  the  increased  importance  of  the  industrial 
areas,  particularly  those  of  the  Saar  and  Rhine  valleys,  Moltke  could 
not  leave  them  unnecessarily  exposed  to  enemy  attack.  It  is  also 
stated  (Bredt,  p.  50)  that  an  additional  reason  for  his  not  abandoning 
Alsace  was  the  expectation  that  the  Italians  might  take  part  on 
the  German  side  ;  in  fact,  their  General  Staff  had  made  arrangements 
to  do  so.  As  their  troops  would  be  brought  to  Upper  Alsace,  it  was 
necessary  to  hold  that  province  with  at  least  two  corps  (the  Seventh 
Army  had  three).  If  the  Italians  did  not  arrive,  then  the  transport 
of  the  corps  to  the  right  wing  could  be  taken  up.  Trains  to  transport 
seven  corps  were  in  fact  collected  as  a  railway  reserve,  beginning 

1  Schlieffen  drew  up  his  plan  before  aeroplanes  were  in  practical  use  or 
air  reconnaissance  behind  the  adversaries'  lines  was  thought  of.  There  is 
no  hint  that  INIoltke  and  his  assistants  ever  took  into  consideration  the 
fact  that  their  foe  might  obtain  information  from  the  air  which  would 
enable  him  to  recognize  and  to  stultify  their  plan. 

-  The  German  Government,  too,  wanted  to  keep  Holland  neutral  so 
as  to  be  able  to  obtain  world  supplies  through  her  ports. 

'  As  the  5th  August  was  the  "  first  day  "  of  the  coup  de  main  and  the 
last  forts  fell  on  the  IGth,  and  the  German  Armies  were  mobilized,  deployed 
and  ready  to  move  in  7  days,  the  loss  of  time  occasioned  by  the  resistance 
of  Liege  would  appear  to  be  at  least  four  days.     (See  above,  page  35.) 


60  THE  SCHLIEFFEN  PLAN 

on  the  tenth  day  of  mobihzation.  They  were  assembled  in  three 
sections  ;  the  first  behind  the  left  wing,  the  second  on  the  middle 
and  lower  Rhine,  and  the  third  in  the  Munster — Cassel  area.  (G.O.A., 
Railway  Vol.  i.  p.  41.) 

In  any  case,  in  1909  Moltke  raised  the  strength  of  the  left  wing 
from  5  to  8  corps.  It  is  claimed  by  the  German  Official  Account 
that  by  so  doing  he  altered  the  proportion  of  7  to  1  to  about  3  to  1 
(actually  60 1  divisions  to  16,  excluding  Landwehr),  and  thereby 
missed  the  point  of  the  Schlieffen  plan,  which  was  a  strong  right 
wing.  This  does  not  appear  to  be  quite  fair  on  Moltke  ;  for  he  had 
to  consider  altered  circumstances  and  his  allotment  of  the  extra 
strength  to  the  left  wing  was  intended  to  be  a  temporary  measure 
at  the  outbreak  of  war. 

After  the  defeat  and  retreat  of  the  French  First  and  Second 
Armies  on  the  20th  August,  six  or  even  more  divisions,  to  restore 
the  Schlieffen  balance,  could,  from  the  operations  viewpoint,  have 
been  transferred  from  the  left  to  the  right  wing  ;  but  this  was  not 
practically  feasible  beyond  Aix  la  Chapelle,  owing  to  the  destruction 
of  the  Meuse  railway  bridges  and  other  demolitions  carried  out  by  the 
Belgians.  Not  until  the  24th  August  could  trains  run  past  Liege, 
and  then  only  by  a  deviation  with  1  in  30  gradients,  which  required 
four  locomotives  for  a  train,  two  in  front  and  two  behind.  The 
whole  of  the  railway  communications  of  the  First,  Second  and  Third 
Armies  were  compelled  to  pass  over  this  one  route  until  the  2nd 
September,  when  the  Huy — Namur  route  became  available  for  the 
Third  Army.  (G.O.A.,  Railway  Vol.  i.  pp.  82-3.)  "  The  Thionville— 
"  Libramont — Namur  section,  so  important  for  the  transfer  from 
"  the  left  to  the  right  wing,  was  opened  to  traffic  on  the  8th  September 
"•  up  to  the  destroyed  Meuse  bridge  at  Namur.  The  restoration  of 
"  the  bridge  was  not  accomplished  until  the  last  days  of  September." 
(Kretschmann,  "Eisenbahnen,"  p.  37.)  Not  until  the  5th  September 
was  it  possible  to  begin  the  transport  of  troops  from  the  left  wing  via 
Aix  la  Chapelle,  Liege,  Brussels.^ 

In  consequence  of  the  transport  difficulties  of  sending  the  troops 
from  left  to  right  as  planned  (Tappen,  pp.  13-15),  and  of  the  easy 
defeat  of  the  French  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  on  the  21st  August 
and  their  retreat — followed  as  it  was  by  that  of  the  Fifth  Army  and 
the  B.E.F.,  as  will  be  seen — Moltke  appears  to  have  jumped  to  the 
conclusion  that  the  moment  had  arrived  to  carry  out  the  second 
part  of  the  Schlieffen  plan.  When  in  the  early  afternoon  of  the 
22nd,  Major-General  Krafft  von  Dellmensingen,  Crown  Prince 
Rupprecht's  Chief  of  the  Sta;fif,  enquired  on  the  telephone  of  Lieut. - 
Colonel  Tappen,  the  head  of  the  Operations  Section  O.H.L.,  whether 
troops  would  now  be  transferred  to  the  right  wing,  the  latter  gave 
the  astonishing  order  from  Moltke,  "  Pursuit  direction  Epinal," 
and  the  explanation,  "  There  are  still  strong  forces  in  the  Vosges, 
"  they  must  be  cut  off."  ^  It  was  hoped  that  the  French,  like  the 
Belgian,  frontier  fortifications  would  be  easily  destroyed  and  overrun, 
and  that  the  "  operation  in  co-operation  with  the  movements  of  the 

^  The  XV.  Corps,  sent  first,  was  delayed  at  Antwerp  as  the  result  of  a 
Belgian  sortie,  and  was  not  in  the  line  of  battle  until  the  14th  September 
on  the  Aisne. 

2  Moltke,  p.  434,  says  of  this  :  "  the  pursuit  came  to  a  stop  on  the 
"  Meuse,  and  the  break-through  (Durchstoss)  planned  between  Epinal  and 
"  Nancy  did  not  succeed." 


THE  SCHLIEFFEN  PLAN  61 

"  right  wing  would  be  the  first  stage  of  the  surrounding  of  tlie 
"  enemy's  Armies  as  a  whole,  which,  if  successfully  carried  out 
"  must,  according  to  the  views  then  held,  bring  about  the  end  of  the 
"  war  in  a  very  short  time."  (Tappen,  p.  15.)  Thus  the  "  Cannae," 
the  double  envelopment  dreamed  of  by  Schlieffen  was  to  be  accom- 
plished. It  may  fairly  be  said  that  Moltke  failed,  not  by  "  watering 
down  "  the  Schlieffen  plan,  as  sometimes  averred,  but  by  trying 
to  carry  it  out  in  its  entirety,  in  the  spirit  of  its  originator,  without 
the  forces  necessary  for  so  vast  an  operation. 

There  was  no  doubt  of  the  certain  success  of  the  Schlieffen  Plan 
in  the  minds  of  the  Prussian  General  Staff.  In  the  negotiations 
with  the  Austro-Hungarian  General  Staff  before  the  war,  in  1908-9, 
the  Germans  laid  dowTi  as  the  basis  of  the  common  plan  that  only 
twelve  or  thirteen  German  divisions  would  be  employed  in  East 
Prussia  in  the  first  instance  (only  ten  were  actually  thus  employed 
in  August  1914)  :  "  Austria-Hungary,  for  the  rest,  must  carry  on 
"  the  conflict  alone  with  Russia  until  a  decision  against  France  has 
"  been  obtained,  which  will  be  sought  with  all  speed.  This  accom- 
"  plished,  there  will  be  a  mass  transport  to  the  East  of  important 
"  German  forces,  which  will  be  engaged  there,  in  co-operation  with 
"  those  of  Austria-Hungary,  to  obtain  a  decision  against  Russia." 

When  Conrad  enquired  of  Moltke  when  this  decision  against 
France  and  this  transfer  of  troops  might  be  expected  to  take  place, 
he  was  informed  "  between  the  36th  and  40th  dav  of  mobilization  " 
("Aus  Meiner  Dienstzeit  1906-1918,"  i.  pp.  369-70,  by  Feld- 
Marschall  Conrad  von  Hotzendorf).  Later  on  this  was  slightly 
modified,  and  Conrad  was  informed,  "  if  France  takes  the  offensive, 
•'  the  decision  is  expected  on  the  21st  day  of  mobilization  ;  if  she 
"  fights  behind  her  frontier  defences,  on  the  28th  day.  After  this 
"  decision  the  forces  to  operate  against  Russia  should  arrive  there 
"  about  the  41st  day  of  mobilization  "  {idem,  p.  374). 


CHAPTER  II 

22nd  august  1914 

First  Contact  with  the  Enemy 

(Sketches  4  &  5  ;  Maps  2,  3,  5  &  6) 

Maps  2  At  dawn  on  the  22nd  August  C  Squadron  of  the  4th 
^  2'  Dragoon  Guards  (2nd  Cavalry  Brigade)  pushed  out  two 
officer's  patrols  from  Obourg,  on  the  canal,  north  towards 
Soignies  ;  one  of  these  found  a  German  piquet  on  the  road, 
fired  on  it,  and  drove  it  off.  This  was  apparently  the 
first  shot  of  the  war  fired  by  the  British  on  the  continent. 
Later  a  troop  of  the  same  squadron  advanced  to  meet  a 
body  of  German  cavalry  which  was  moving  south  along 
the  road  from  Soignies  towards  Mons,  turned  it  back  near 
Casteau,  and  pursued  it  until  checked  by  fire.^  The  4th 
killed  three  or  four  of  the  enemy  and  captured  three  more, 
who  proved  to  belong  to  the  4th  Cuirassiers  of  the  9th 
Cavalry  Division.  Further  to  the  east,  the  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade  found  all  clear  for  two  miles  north  of  the  canal 
within  the  triangle  Gottignies — Roeulx — Houdeng  ;  but 
here  again  the  peasants  reported  the  enemy  to  be  in  strength 
to  the  north,  at  Soignies  and  north  of  La  Louviere  (eleven 
miles  east  of  Mons).  Still  further  east  patrols  of  the 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  early  found  contact  with  the  enemy 
in  the  direction  of  La  Louviere  and  reported  German 
troops  of  all  arms  to  be  advancing  from  the  north,  and 
the  French  to  be  retiring  across  the  Sambre.  General 
Sordet's  3rd  Cavalry  Division  passed  through  the  British 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  soon  after,  on  its  march  westward  ; 
but  it  was  not  until  nearly  10  a.m.  that  a  German  detach- 
ment of  all  arms  ^  came  in  contact  with  two  squadrons  of 
the  Scots  Greys  (5th  Cavalry  Brigade),  which  were  holding 

*  German  accounts  also  record  this  as  the  first  contact.     "  Mons,"  p.  17. 
2  Of  the  13th  Division.     See  page  70. 

62 


ADVANCE  OF  THE  B.E.F.  63 

the  bridges  over  the  Samme  at  Binche  and  Peronnes,  22  Aug. 
facing  east.  The  enemy  made  httle  effort  to  force  the  ^^i** 
passage,  though  he  shelled  the  Greys  heavily  but  ineffec- 
tively, and  kept  up  a  fairly  accurate  rifle  fire.  The  3rd 
Cavalry  Brigade,  in  support  of  the  5th,  remained  about 
Bray,  two  miles  in  rear,  whence  D  and  E  Batteries  R.H.A. 
fired  a  few  shells.  At  2  p.m.  the  Greys  slowly  drew  off, 
having  apparently,  by  sheer  superiority  of  marksmanship, 
inflicted  some  thirty  or  forty  casualties  at  the  cost  of  one 
officer  wounded.  A  troop  of  the  16th  Lancers,  which  had 
been  sent  to  their  support,  gave  chase  to  a  hostile  patrol 
on  the  way,  and  came  suddenly  upon  a  party  of  Jdger  on 
the  hill  immediately  to  the  west  of  Peronnes.  The  troop 
rode  straight  over  the  Jdger,  charged  through  them  again 
on  the  return  journey,  at  a  cost  of  only  one  man  wounded 
and  three  horses  killed,  and  then  left  them  to  E  Battery 
R.H.A.,  which  had  unlimbered  to  cover  its  return.  Alto- 
gether, the  cavalry  was  heartened  by  its  work  on  this 
day,  being  satisfied  that  it  was  superior  to  the  German 
horsemen,  both  mounted  and  dismounted,  alike  with  rifle 
and  with  sword. 

The  cumulative  effect  of  the  encounters  during  the 
day  on  the  British  cavalry  commanders  was  the  con- 
viction that  German  infantry  in  great  force  was  in  close 
support  of  the  German  cavalry.  They  had  made  reports 
in  that  sense  on  the  previous  day,  and  they  were  now  more 
than  ever  confirmed  in  their  opinion.  Aerial  reconnais- 
sance during  the  forenoon  did  not  tend  to  shake  this  view. 
One  aviator  landing  at  Beaumont  (about  12  miles  east  of 
Maubeuge)  to  take  in  petrol,  learned  from  General  de 
Mas-Latrie,  the  commander  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps, 
that  General  Sordet,  on  his  march  westwards  to  the  left 
flank  of  the  Allied  Armies,  had  on  the  21st  encountered 
German  infantry  north  of  the  Sambre  canal,  and  had  been 
compelled  to  fall  back.  This  accounted  for  his  movement 
southward  to  Binche.  Later,  another  British  aeroplane 
(which  returned  to  the  aerodrome  at  1.10  p.m.)  reported 
the  northern  part  of  Charleroi  and  many  other  towns 
and  villages  near  it  to  be  in  flames,  and  on  its  return 
westward  was  fired  at  by  an  infantry  brigade  between  Ath 
and  Enghien.  A  third  aeroplane  had  a  similar  experience, 
the  observer  being  wounded.  The  sum  total  of  these 
observations  was  to  the  effect  that  brigades  of  German 
infantry,  probably  amounting  to  a  corps  in  all,  filled  the 
roads  south  of  Grammont,  that  a  cavalry  division  was  at 


&5 


64  OPERATIONS  OF  22nd  AUGUST 

Soignies,  and  that  the  general  front  of  this  corps  and 
cavalry  division  extended,  facing  south-west,  from  Lessines 
to  Soignies,^  no  part  of  them  being  west  of  the  Dendre 
canal,  excepting  a  party  of  mounted  troops  which  had 
been  seen  at  Peruwelz,  immediately  to  the  north  of  Conde. 
Their  further  advance,  if  the  direction  were  maintained, 
would  bring  their  left  (east)  flank  to  Mons. 
Sketch  5.  Meantime,  the  British  I.  and  II.  Corps  were  advancing. 
Maps  3  In  view  of  the  situation,  both  corps  started  an  hour  and  a 
half  before  the  time  which  had  been  originally  ordered. 
The  1st  Division,  moving  at  4  a.m.,  reached  its  selected 
halting  places — north  and  south-west  of  Maubeuge — at 
Bettignies,  St.  Remi  Mai  Bati,  Limont  Fontaine,  between 
3  and  5  p.m.  But  shortly  before  3.30  p.m.  Sir  Douglas  Haig 
received  orders  for  the  I.  Corps  to  continue  its  advance. 
The  result  of  the  morning's  reconnaissances  had  shown 
G.H.Q.  that  if  the  Cavalry  Division  were  withdrawn,  as 
already  ordered,  to  the  left  of  the  line,  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  would  be  too  weak  to  cover  the  large  gap  between 
the  right  of  the  II.  Corps  and  the  left  of  the  French  XVIII. 
Corps  on  the  Sambre,  and  that  consequently  the  I.  Corps 
must  be  hurried  up  to  its  support.  Accordingly,  between 
5  and  7  p.m.  the  1st  Division  resumed  its  march,  but  did 
not  reach  its  billets  until  far  into  the  night,  the  2nd  and 
3rd  Brigades  entering  Villers  Sire  Nicole  and  Croix  lez 
Rouveroy,  some  eight  to  ten  miles  south-west  of  Binche, 
between  9  and  10  p.m.,  whilst  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade  on 
the  right  did  not  arrive  at  Grand  Reng  until  2  to  3  a.m.  on 
the  23rd.  This  was  a  long  march,  which  tried  the  troops 
severely. 

About  noon  the  2nd  Division,  which  had  started  at 
5  A.M.,  halted  in  depth  at  La  Longueville,  Hargnies,  and 
Pont  sur  Sambre,  which  lie  on  a  north  and  south  road 
passing  west  of  Maubeuge.  Its  head  was  thus  some  six 
miles  south-west  of  the  rear  of  the  1st  Division.  The  2nd 
Division  also  received  orders  to  resume  its  march  ;  but 
they  were  subsequently  cancelled,  since  the  German  ad- 
vance had  apparently  ended  for  the  day,  and  there  was  no 
immediate  necessity  to  make  such  a  call  on  the  troops. 

The  whole  movement  of  the  I.  Corps  was  covered  on 
the  west  by  a  flank  guard  of  the  divisional  cavalry,  which 
traversed  the  Forest  of  Mormal. 

In  the  II.  Corps,  the  3rd  Division  moved  off  at  7  a.m., 

1  The  troops  in  question  were,  commencing  on  the  west  :    IV.  Corps, 
III.  Corps  and  9th  Cavalry  Division. 


ADVANCE  OF  THE  B.E.F.  65 

and  the  5th,  in  three  columns,  at  6  a.m.  ;  the  former  22  Aug. 
reached  its  billets  around  Mons,  in  the  area  Nimy — Ghlin  1914. 
— Frameries — Spiennes,  at  about  1  p.m.,  and  the  latter,  Sketches 
on  its  left,  the  line  of  the  Mons  canal  from  Jemappes  west-  ^j*  ^' 
ward  to  Bois  de  Boussu,  one  or  two  hours  later.  The 
troops  again  suffered  much  from  the  cobbled  roads,  and 
the  march,  though  not  long,  was  extremely  trying.  The 
first  outpost  line  taken  up  by  the  3rd  Division,  consequent 
upon  the  reports  of  the  engagement  of  the  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade,  was  from  Givry  (6  miles  south-east  of  Mons)  to 
the  edge  of  Mons.  Later  in  the  afternoon,  however,  the 
line  was  thrown  forward  in  a  wide  sweep  eastwards, 
through  Villers  St.  Ghislain,  St.  Symphorien,  the  bridge 
at  Obourg,  and  the  bridge  at  Lock  5,  to  Nimy.  The  8th 
Brigade  took  the  right  of  this  line,  the  9th  the  left,  and  the 
7th  was  in  reserve  some  five  miles  in  rear  at  Frameries 
and  Ciply — the  village  around  which  Marlborough's  army 
had  bivouacked  on  the  night  before  the  battle  of  Mal- 
plaquet.  On  the  left  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  13th  Brigade 
of  the  5th  Division  occupied  the  line  of  the  canal  from 
Mariette  to  Les  Herbieres,  and  the  14th  Brigade  from  Les 
Herbieres  to  Pommeroeul.  The  total  front  round  Mons 
held  by  the  II.  Corps  was  over  twenty  miles. 

Thus  the  two  corps  were  approximately  in  the  positions 
assigned  to  them  in  G.H.Q.  orders  of  the  20th  August.  The 
I.  Corps  was  only  a  short  distance  from  its  intended 
position  ;  but  the  cavalry  was  now  about  to  move  due 
west,  and  a  wheel  of  the  II.  Corps  to  the  north-east  up  to 
Lens  had  still  to  take  place.  For  the  moment  the  line  of 
the  Mons  canal,  now  held  by  the  outposts  of  the  II.  Corps, 
was  the  left  of  the  British  front ;  with  the  I.  Corps'  front 
it  formed  a  salient  angle,  not  a  straight  line. 

A  broad  belt  of  woodland  extended  along  the  whole 
length  of  the  front  north  of  the  canal,  capable  of  screening 
the  approach  of  the  enemy  to  within  two  miles,  or  even 
less,  of  the  British  piquet  line.  Around  Mons  itself  the 
canal  forms  a  pronounced  salient  (the  "  Mons  Salient  "  as 
it  will  be  called),  which  was  ill-adapted  to  prolonged  and 
serious  defence.  On  appreciating  the  situation,  3rd  Divi- 
sion headquarters,  which  had  been  warned  of  the  possi- 
bility of  an  attack  by  German  advanced  guards,  decided 
that  in  this  quarter  the  outposts  should  not  be  reinforced 
in  case  of  attack,  and  ordered  the  preparation  of  a  second 
line  position  in  rear,  which  will  presently  be  described. 
Meanwhile,  as  the  II.  Corps  came  up,  it  became  possible 

VOL.  I  JF 


66  OPERATIONS  OF  22nd  AUGUST 

gradually  to  collect  the  Cavalry  Division.  Originally  it 
had  been  intended  that  the  division  should  move  westward 
at  noon  ;  but  this,  in  view  of  the  German  menace  about 
Binche,  had  been  considered  inadvisable.  At  4  p.m.,  how- 
ever, General  Allenby  gave  the  order  to  withdraw  west- 
ward. The  main  body  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  remained 
near  Estinne  au  Mont  (south-west  of  Binche),  leaving  the 
Scots  Greys  in  position  at  Estinne  au  Val,  a  couple  of 
miles  to  the  north-west.  At  6.30  p.m.  this  brigade,  having 
first  put  the  bridges  over  the  Samme  into  a  state  of  defence, 
went  into  billets  between  Binche  and  Merbes  Ste.  Marie. 
As  the  Cavalry  Division  drew  off,  it  was  followed  by  a 
German  airship.  After  a  most  painful  march  westward 
behind  the  II.  Corps,  along  some  fourteen  miles  of  cobbled 
street  through  the  dreary  squalor  of  an  interminable 
mining  village,  it  reached  its  billets  at  Elouges,  Quievrain 
and  Baisieux,  on  the  left  of  the  Army,  between  midnight 
and  3  a.m.  of  the  23rd. 
Maps  3  In  the  course  of  the  afternoon  the  Flying  Corps  made 
^  ^'  further  reconnaissances  towards  Charleroi,  and  ascertained 
that  at  least  two  German  army  corps — one  of  them  the 
Guard  Corps — and  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division,  were 
attacking  the  French  Fifth  Army  on  the  line  of  the  Sambre.^ 
In  the  evening,  the  observers  returned  with  very  grave 
news,  which  was  confirmed  in  detail,  later,  by  Lieut. 
E.  L.  Spears,  the  British  liaison  officer  with  General  Lan- 
rezac,  and  by  an  officer  of  the  Fifth  Army  Headquarters 
sent  by  that  general.  The  French  centre  had  been  driven 
back,  and  the  X.  Corps  had  retired  to  the  line  St.  Gerard 
(13  miles  E.S.E.  of  Charleroi) — Biesme — Gerpinnes,  from 
five  to  ten  miles  south  of  the  river ;  the  III.  Corps  had 
likewise  fallen  back  nearly  the  same  distance,  to  a  line 
from  Gerpinnes  westward  to  Jamioulx  ;  the  XVIII.  Corps 
on  the  left,  however,  remained  in  its  original  position,  still 
echeloned  to  the  rear,  between  Marbaix  and  Thuin.^ 
General  Sordet  had  moved  southward  from  Binche,  and 
was  halting  his  cavalry  corps  for  the  night  at  Bersillies 
I'Abbaye  (9  miles  south  of  Binche),  striking  well  to  the 
rear  of  the  British  Army  before  moving  west.  General 
Valabregue's  two  Reserve   divisions  were  near  Avesnes, 

1  The  attack  was  made  by  the  Guard,  X.,  X.  Reserve  and  VII.  Corps 
(east  to  west).  The  advance  on  the  previous  day  up  to  the  Sambre  had 
been  led  by  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division  and  the  Guard  and  A'.  Corps. 

2  A  good  account  of  these  events  will  be  found  in  "  Le  lO^  Corps  a  la 
bataille  de  Charleroi,"  by  Colonel  Lucas. 


SITUATION  AT  NIGHTFALL  67 

twenty-five  miles  south  of  Mons,  preparing  to  march  north-  22  Aug. 
east  towards  Beaumont — Cousolre,  in  rear  of  the  gap  i^i'*- 
between  the  Alhed  Armies.^  The  British  on  the  Mons 
canal,  therefore,  were  some  nine  miles  northward  of  the 
main  French  line  ;  moreover,  the  1st  Division,  when  it  came 
up  to  its  destination  about  Grand  Reng,  would  be  fully  nine 
miles  from  the  left  flank  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps.  To 
fill  the  gap  there  were  no  troops  available,  except  the  5th 
Cavalry  Brigade  and  Valabregue's  two  Reserve  divisions  ; 
unless  we  include  Sordet's  cavalry,  which  was  still  in 
the  neighbourhood,  though  moving  fast  away  from  it. 
Further,  nine  miles  of  the  British  line  from  the  Mons 
Salient  to  Rouveroy  (9  miles  south-east  of  Mons),  was  held 
by  no  more  than  one  infantry  brigade,  the  8th. 

The  enemy's  main  bodies  were  now  reported  at  various 
points  in  dangerous  proximity.  Twenty  thousand  men  of 
all  arms,  presumed  to  be  part  of  the  German  VII.  Corps, 
were  known  to  be  moving  southward  from  Luttre,  about 
eight  miles  north  of  Charleroi.  Thirty  thousand  more 
(supposed  to  be  the  IV.  or  the  ///.  Corps,  but  actually 
the  VII.  Reserve)  were  reported  about  Nivelles,  and  the 
IX.  Corps  was  bivouacking  for  the  night  south-east  of 
Soignies.-  Yet  another  large  body  of  all  arms,  reckoned 
to  be  another  corps,  the  //.,  was  moving  west  through 
Ladeuse,  about  five  miles  south  of  Ath.  Further,  the 
German  9th  Cavalry  Division  had  been  identified,  with  its 
head  at  Peruwelz,  and  other  cavalry,  probably  divisional, 
was  known  to  be  north  of  Mons.^  The  inhabitants  of  Les 
Herbieres  informed  the  Scottish  Borderers  that  twelve 
Uhlans  had  ridden  into  their  village  on  the  21st,  and  that 
some  two  hundred  Germans  were  close  at  hand.  Finally 
an  air  report  was  brought  into  Maubeuge,  and  at  once 
taken  personally  to  G.H.Q.  by  Br.-General  Sir  David 
Henderson,  that  a  long  column,  estimated  at  a  corps,  was 
moving  westward  on  the  Brussels — Ninove  road,  and  at 
the  latter  town  had  turned  south-west  towards  Gram- 
mont.     This  was  later  identified  as  the  German  //.  Corps 

^  For  the  movements  of  General  Valabregue's  Group  see  Note  II.  at  end 
of  Chapter  V. 

^  The  III.  and  IV.  Corps  were  to  the  west  of  the  VII.  Reserve  and 
IX.,  near  Soignies  and  south-west  of  Enghien,  respectively. 

^  On  the  night  of  22nd/2;3rd  Marwitz's  three  cavalry  divisions  were 
concentrated  around  Ath,  preparatory  to  moving  north-westwards  towards 
Courtrai  and  the  coast.  The  extreme  left  of  the  9th  Cavalry  Division,  not 
its  head,  had  approached  Peruwelz  during  the  22nd.  Marwitz  was  looking 
for  a  British  advance  from  the  coast,  that  is  the  west,  not  from  the  south. 
Poseck,  p.  31. 


68  OPERATIONS  OF  22nd  AUGUST 

of  the  First  Army.  There  were  also  signs  of  a  strong 
force  (///.  Corps)  moving  down  the  great  chaussee  on 
Soignies  ;  it  was  endeavouring  to  hide  itself  from  observa- 
tion by  keeping  under  the  trees  which  bordered  the  road. 

As  the  situation  disclosed  itself,  the  British  Commander- 
in-Chief,  whilst  still  hoping  that  offensive  action  might  be 
possible,  began  to  realize,  in  view  of  the  isolated  posi- 
tion of  his  force,  the  necessity  of  being  prepared  for  any 
kind  of  move,  either  in  advance  or  retreat.  The  air  report 
that  a  corps  was  moving  on  the  road  Brussels — Ninove — 
Grammont  seemed  to  give  warning  of  a  very  ambitious 
enveloping  movement  to  the  south-west.  In  any  case 
Kluck's  advance  made  it  impossible  to  expect  that  the 
British  would  be  able  to  reach  Soignies  without  opposition. 
Taking  all  these  facts  into  consideration.  Sir  John  French, 
after  consultation  with  Major-General  Sir  A.  Murray,  his 
Chief  of  the  General  Staff,  announced  about  10  p.m.  to 
the  senior  General  Staff  officers  of  the  two  corps  and 
the  Cavalry  Division  (Br. -Generals  J.  Gough,  G.  T. 
Forestier-Walker  and  Colonel  J.  Vaughan),  who  had  been 
summoned  to  Le  Cateau  to  receive  orders  for  the  next 
day's  operations,  that,  owing  to  the  retreat  of  the  French 
Fifth  Army,  the  British  offensive  would  not  take  place. 
To  a  request  of  General  Lanrezac,  brought  by  a  staff  officer 
about  11  P.M.,  that  the  English  should  attack  the  flank  of 
the  German  columns  which  were  pressing  him  back  from 
the  Sambre,  Sir  John  French  felt  that  it  was  impossible  to 
accede,  for  it  would  mean  exposing  his  own  left  flank  to 
an  enemy  at  least  twice  his  strength  ;  but  he  agreed  to 
remain  in  his  position  on  the  canal  for  twenty-four  hours. 
At  the  suggestion  of  the  II.  Corps,  he  ordered  the  I.  Corps 
to  take  over  by  6  a.m.  on  the  23rd  the  portion  of  the  outpost 
line  of  the  II.  Corps  which  lay  east  of  Mons.  Accordingly 
the  2nd  Division  which,  as  we  have  seen,  had  remained 
in  its  original  billets,  moved  forward  at  3  a.m.  on  the 
23rd,  but  it  was  too  late  to  relieve  the  II.  Corps  before 
fighting  commenced. 

NOTE 

German  Uncertainty  as  to  the  Position  of  the  B.E.F. 
ON  23rd  August  1914 

From  the  many  sources  of  information  now  available,  it  would 
appear  that  the  fog  of  war  on  the  German  side,  in  spite  of  superiority 
in  aircraft,  was  very  much  more  intense  than  on  the  British. 


POSITION  OF  B.E.F.  UNKNOWN  TO  GERMANS    69 

In  the  first  place,  Kluck  laboured  under  the  misapprehension  ^  Aug.  1914. 
that  the  B.E.F.  had  landed  at  Ostend,  Dunkirk  and  Calais.     The 
Great  General  Staff  had  expected  that  it  would  do  so  ;  ^    but  the 
measures  taken  by  the  French  to  prevent  espionage  were  so  good 
that  no  information  as  to  the  real  landing-places  reached  the  Ger- 
mans.    Thus  their  accounts  say  :  *    "As  regards  the  arrival  of  this 
'  Force  [the  B.E.F.],  the  information  was  unreliable,  and  as  regards 
'  its  line  of  advance,  there  was  none  whatever.     Even  a  message 
'  from  the  Supreme  Command  dated  20th  August,  which  arrived  at 
'  First  Army  Headquarters  on  the  evening  of  the  21st,  ran  :    '  Dis- 
'  '  embarkation  of  the  English  at  Boulogne  and  their  employment 
'  '  from  direction  of  Lille  must  be  reckoned  with.    The  opinion  here, 
'  '  however,    is    that    large    disembarkations    have    not    yet    taken 
'  '  place.  .  .  .'     It  was  only  on  the  22nd  August  that  an  English 
'  cavalry  squadron  was  heard  of  at  Casteau,  6  miles  north-east  of 
'  Mons,*  and  an  aeroplane  of  the  English  5th  Flying  Squadron  which 
'  had  gone  up  from  Maubeuge  was  shot  down.    The  presence  of  the 
'  English  on  our  front  was  thus  established,  although  nothing  as 
'  regards  their  strength."  ^ 

What  is  more  convincing  perhaps  than  even  this  statement  is 
the  opening  paragraph  of  Kluck's  operation  orders  for  the  23rd 
August,^  issued  at  Hal  at  8.30  p.m.  on  the  22nd  ;  all  that  he  could 
tell  his  corps  commanders  was  :  "A  squadron  of  British  cavalry 
"  was  encountered  to-day  at  Casteau,  north-east  of  Mons,  and  a 
"  British  aeroplane,  coming  from  Maubeuge,  was  shot  down  near 
*'  Enghien."  Kluck's  uncertainty,  however,  was  still  great,  and  he 
was  so  obsessed  with  the  idea  that  the  British  would  appear  on  his 
flank  that  on  23rd  August,  the  actual  day  of  the  battle  of  Mons, 
hearing  from  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps,  which  he  had  sent  towards 
the  coast,  that  troops  were  detraining  at  Tournai,  he  halted  his 
Army  for  two  hours — 8.30  to  10.30  a.m. — and  prepared  to  wheel 
westwards.  In  Kluck's  own  words  :  "A  report  reached  Army 
"  Headquarters  that  a  detrainment  of  troops  had  been  in  progress 
"  at  Tournai  since  the  previous  day.  It  seemed  therefore  not  un- 
"  likely  that  strong  British  forces  were  being  sent  forward  through 
"  Lille.  The  heads  of  the  advanced  guards  of  the  corps  were  therefore 
"  halted  on  the  road  Leuze — Mons — Binche  to  enable  preparations 

1  Kluck,  p.  33. 

2  Kuhl,  "  Generalstab,"  p.  91. 

3  General  von  Zwehl  writing  in  the  "  Militar  Wochenblatt,"  Nos.  35, 
36,  37  and  38  of  September  1919,  in  an  article  entitled  "  The  Operations  of 
Field  JIarshal  French  against  the  First  Army  and  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps." 
Kluck,  p.  34,  and  Biilow,  p.  21,  also  give  the  Supreme  Command  message. 

*  This  belonged  to  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards,  as  mentioned  at  the 
beginning  of  Chapter  II. 

*  The  German  navy  had  not  been  helpful  in  the  matter.  On  1st  August 
the  Chief  of  the  Admiral  Staff  wrote  to  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  the 
Fleet.      "  All  information   indicates  that   England   intends   to   send  the 

'  Expeditionary  Force,  which  has  been  assembled  in  Essex  (sic),  to  the 

'  Dutch  and  Belgian  ports."     On  the  8th,   "  the  naval  command  had 

definite  '  information  that  the  transport  of  the  B.E.F.  to  Calais  and 

'  eastwards    (Dunkirk,    Ostend    and    Zeebrugge)   was    '  in    full    swing.' 

'  Nothing  was  heard  in  Germany  of  the  mass  of  the  Expeditionary  Force 

'  crossing  the  Channel  in  the  middle  of  August."    Schafer's  "  Generalstab 

und  Admiralstab,"  pp.  33-4. 

8  Kluck,  p.  34. 


70   POSITION  OF  B.E.F.  UNKNOWN  TO  GERMANS 

"to  be  made  for  the  Army  to  wheel  westwards.  .  .  .  Eventually, 
"  however,  it  was  reported  that  only  a  French  infantry  brigade  was 
"  at  Tournai,  and  that  it  was  retiring  on  Lille.  The  Army,  therefore, 
"  continued  to  advance." 

The  German  General  Staff  monograph  "  Mons  "  adds  that  by  the 
detrainment  at  Tournai  "  the  still  unsolved  question  as  to  where  the 
"  British  principal  forces  would  be  met  was  made  yet  more  difficult 
"  to  answer.  In  relation  to  the  landing-places  of  the  British,  their 
"  detrainment  near  Lille  was  not  unlikely."  It  continues  that,  in 
the  course  of  the  forenoon,  information  as  to  the  presence  of  the 
B.E.F.  on  the  canal  became  more  and  more  definite.  "  A  captured 
"  private  letter  announced  the  presence  of  a  strong  British  Army 
"  south  of  JNIons.  The  nearest  division  of  the  Second  Army,  the  13th 
"  Division,  reported  that  a  British  cavalry  brigade  had  been  driven 
"  from  Peronnes  in  a  south-westerly  direction.^  ...  In  the  early 
"  morning,  aeroplane  reconnaissance  had  given  no  results  in  conse- 
"  quence  of  the  prevailing  fog." 

On  the  arrival  of  the  2nd  Battalion  of  the  12th  Grenadier  Regiment 
(III.  Corps),  at  Baudour,  2  miles  north  of  the  Mons  canal,  about 
noon  on  the  23rd  August,  the  cavalry  reported  ^  that  there  was  no 
enemy  within  fifty  miles,  and  shortly  afterwards  two  hussars,  covered 
with  blood,  galloped  past  shouting  that  the  enemy  had  occupied  the 
line  of  the  canal  in  front.  A  third  limped  past,  dragging  his  blood- 
stained saddle,  and  reported  "  in  front,  in  the  village,  there  they 
"  are  !  " 

The  German  General  Staff  account  states  that  "  reconnoitring 
"  parties  were  unable  to  reach  the  bridges  [of  the  canal].  Whenever 
"  they  tried  to  penetrate  between  the  numerous  widely  scattered 
"  farms  .  .  .  they  were  received  with  fire  from  invisible  riflemen." 
It  was  thus  in  complete  ignorance  of  the  strength  of  the  British  that 
Kluck  advanced  to  the  canal  ;  as  he  says,  there  "  might  have  been 
"  only  cavalry  "  in  front  of  him.* 

1  It  was  two  squadrons  of  the  Royal  Scots  Greys.     See  page  62. 

*  Bloem,  p.  IIG. 

'  Just  as  Billow  on  the  22nd  August  at  Charleroi  thought  that  he  was 
only  opposed  by  cavalry  and  weak  infantry  detachments  when  he  had  the 
French  Fifth  Army  in  front  of  him.     Biilow,  pp.  21,  22. 


CHAPTER  III 

the  battle  of  mons 

23rd  August 

(Sketches  3,  4  »&  5 ;  Maps  5,  6  &  7) 

The  ground  on  which  the  British  Army  had  taken  up  its  Map  6. 
position  was  a  narrow  belt  of  coalfield  which  extends 
roughly  for  rather  more  than  twenty  miles  westwards  from 
Maurage  (6  miles  east  of  Mons)  along  the  Mons  canal,  and 
has  an  average  breadth,  from  the  canal  southward,  of  two 
miles.  South  of  this  belt  the  country  gradually  rises  to  a 
great  tract  of  rolling  chalk  downs,  cut  into  by  many  streams 
and  with  numerous  outlying  spurs.  Every  inch  of  this 
territory  has  in  bygone  days  seen  the  passage  of  British 
armies  ;  name  after  name  is  found  upon  British  colours, 
or  is  familiar  in  British  military  history. 

On  the  ground  occupied  by  the  I.  Corps — that  is  to  say, 
roughly  from  Givry  northward  to  Spiennes,  thence  west- 
ward almost  to  Paturages  and  thence  southward  again 
to  Quevy  le  Petit — the  chalk  comes  to  the  surface ;  and 
there  is  even  a  little  outcrop  of  it  within  the  salient  or 
loop  of  the  canal  around  Mons.  This  small  area  is  cut  up 
by  wire  fences,  market  gardens,  and  the  usual  artificial 
features  which  form  the  outskirts  of  a  provincial  town  ; 
and  it  is  noteworthy  that  across  this  tangle  of  enclosures 
no  fewer  than  seven  different  roads  diverge  from  Mons 
north-east  and  north-west  to  as  many  bridges.  At  the 
base  of  the  salient  the  ground  rises  gradually  from  north 
to  south,  for  fifteen  hundred  to  two  thousand  yards,  till 
it  culminates  in  three  well-marked  features.  The  first  of 
these  is  Mount  Erebus,  a  round  hill  immediately  to  the 
south  of  Mons  ;  the  second  is  a  great  whale-backed  hump, 
about  a  thousand  yards  long  from  north  to  south,  very 
steep  upon  every  side  except  the  eastern,  and  crowned  by 

71 


72  MONS 

two  summits,  Mont  Panisel  on  the  north  and  Bois  la  Haut 
on  the  south,  the  whole  called  by  the  latter  name.  The 
third  is  the  height  known  as  Hill  93,  which  lies  south- 
east of  Bois  la  Haut  and  is  divided  from  it  by  a  shallow 
valley.  This  last  hill  was  of  considerable  tactical  import- 
ance, since  from  it  and  from  Bois  la  Haut  observation  and 
cross-fire  could  be  brought  to  bear  upon  the  ground  east- 
ward about  St.  Symphorien.  But  Bois  la  Haut  was  in 
parts  thickly  wooded,  and  consequently  from  its  northern 
end,  where  there  were  hospital  buildings,  there  was  little 
field  of  fire. 

West  of  Mons  the  line  of  the  canal  is  straight,  and  the 
actual  borders  are  clear  ;  the  ground  on  both  sides  of  it 
is  cut  up  by  a  network  of  artificial  water-courses,  chequered 
by  osier-beds,  for  a  breadth  of  a  mile  or  more.  But  the 
opening  up  of  the  coal-measures  has  turned  much  of  the 
country  immediately  south  of  this  watery  land  into  the 
hideous  confusion  of  a  mining  district.  The  space  occupied 
by  the  II.  Corps  in  particular,  within  the  quadrangle 
Mons — Frameries — Dour — Boussu,  was  practically  one  huge 
unsightly  village,  traversed  by  a  vast  number  of  devious 
cobbled  roads  which  lead  from  no  particular  starting-point 
to  no  particular  destination,  and  broken  by  pit-heads  and 
great  slag-heaps,  often  over  a  hundred  feet  high.  It  is, 
in  fact,  a  close  and  blind  country,  such  as  no  army  had  yet 
been  called  upon  to  fight  in  against  a  civilised  enemy  in  a 
great  campaign. 

At  5.30  A.M.  the  Commander-in-Chief  met  the  com- 
manders of  his  two  corps  and  of  the  cavalry  division  in  the 
chateau  at  Sars  la  Bruyere,  when  he  issued  orders  for  the 
outpost  line  to  be  strengthened,  and  for  the  bridges  over 
the  Mons  canal  to  be  prepared  for  demolition.^  The  con- 
ference over,  the  Field-Marshal,  at  9.15  a.m.  proceeded  to 
Valenciennes.  The  19th  Brigade  had  just  detrained  there 
and  was  marching  to  occupy  the  left  flank  of  the  outpost 
line  on  the  canal.  This  would  thus  extend  nearly  to  Conde, 
where  it  was  understood  from  a  French  staff  officer  that 
Territorial  troops  would  take  it  up.^     The  local  situation, 

^  The  G.O.C.  II.  Corps,  foreseeing  the  imminence  of  an  attack,  had 
already,  at  2.30  a.m.,  sent  an  order  to  his  two  divisions  to  prepare  the 
bridges  for  demoHtion.  At  8.53  a.m.  he  issued  a  further  order  directing 
them  to  be  destroyed  on  divisional  order  in  the  event  of  a  retirement  being 
necessary.  All  the  barges  in  the  canal  were  sunk  by  small  gun-cotton 
charges.  A  full  description  of  the  work  done  will  be  found  in  "  The  Royal 
"  Engineers  Journal  "  for  March  1932,  "  Demolitions  carried  out  at  Mons 
"  and  during  the  Retreat  1914,"  by  Major-General  Sir  R.  U.  H.  Buckland. 

2  The  84th  Territorial  Division  subsequently  arrived. 


BRITISH  DISPOSITIONS  73 

therefore,   seemed  satisfactory.     For  the  rest,   there  was  23  Aug. 
intelHgence  of  fighting  between  German  cavalry  and  French    ^^i*- 
Territorial  infantry  about  Tournai,  though  no  information 
as  to  its  results. 

In  describing  the  general  disposition  of  the  troops  it  Sketches 
must  be  remembered  that,  as  the  Army  had  halted  whilst  ^*  ^' 
in   the   course   of  wheeling   or   forming   to   face   towards     ^^ 
Nivelles,  the  front  of  the  I.  Corps  was  already  turned  north- 
eastward, whereas  the  II.,  upon  the  wheeling  flank,  still 
mainly  faced  to  the  north.     The  general  front,  therefore, 
formed  an  obtuse  angle,  the  I.  Corps  being  on  the  right  half 
of  the  south-eastern  arm,  and  the  II.  Corps  round  the  apex 
and  along  the  western  arm.     The  south-eastern  arm  from 
Peissant  to  Mons  was  about  ten  miles  long,  and  the  arm 
along  the  canal  from  Mons  to  Conde,  seventeen  miles. 

The  I.  Corps  was  extended,  roughly  speaking,  from  the 
Sambre  to  the  Haine  ;  the  1st  Division  (Major-General 
S.  H.  Lomax)  being  on  the  right,  with  the  3rd  Brigade 
(Br.-General  H.  J,  S.  Landon)  in  front  between  Peissant 
and  Haulchin  (about  four  miles) ;  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade 
(Br.-General  F.  I.  Maxse)  in  rear  of  its  right  at  Grand  Reng 
and  Vieux  Reng  ;  and  the  2nd  Brigade  (Br.-General  E.  S. 
Bulfin)  in  rear  of  its  left  at  Villers  Sire  Nicole  and  Rouveroy. 
The  2nd  Division  (Major-General  C.  C.  Monro)  was  on  its 
way  to  take  up  the  line  on  the  left  of  the  1st  Division  from 
Haulchin  to  Harmignies  (another  four  miles),  and  mean- 
while the  vacant  place  was  filled  by  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade. 
In  the  II .  Corps,  the  ground  in  front  of  the  right  of  the  outpost 
line  of  the  3rd  Division  (Major-General  H.  I.  W.  Hamilton) 
was  commanded  by  the  great  bluff  of  Bois  la  Haut.  This 
hill  was  reconnoitred  for  occupation  by  the  batteries  of  the 
XL.  Brigade  R.F.A.,  which  were  billeted  immediately  behind 
it  at  Mesvin,  and  had  been  secured  on  the  night  of  the  22nd- 
23rd  by  sending  forward  the  2 /Royal  Irish  Regiment,  of  the 
8th  Brigade,  to  connect  with  the  I.  Corps  at  Harmignies,  and 
hold  the  villages  of  Villers  St.  Ghislain  and  St.  Symphorien. 
The  1 /Gordon  Highlanders  and  2/Royal  Scots  of  the 
8th  Brigade  (Br.-General  B.  J.  C.  Doran)  were  in  position 
near  the  Harmignies  road  from  Hill  93  to  the  north-east 
corner  of  Bois  la  Haut.  The  front  from  Bois  la  Haut 
northwards  to  the  apex  of  the  Mons  Salient,  two  miles,  was 
held  as  an  outpost  line  by  the  4/Middlesex.  Rough  en- 
trenchments had  been  thrown  up  during  the  afternoon  of 
the  22nd,  but  were  still  unfinished  when  darkness  fell.  On 
the  left  of  the  4/Middlesex,  the  9th  Brigade  (Br.-General 


74  MONS 

F.  C.  Shaw)  held  the  line  of  the  canal  from  the  Nimy 
bridges  on  the  western  face  of  the  Mons  Salient,  as  far  as 
the  bridge  of  Mariette,  six  miles,  with  the  4/Royal  Fusiliers, 
1/Royal  Scots  Fusiliers  and  1/Fifth  Fusiliers.^  The  remain- 
ing battalion,  the  1 /Lincolnshire,  was  a  mile  south-west  of 
Mons  at  Cuesmes.  The  7th  Brigade  (Br.-General  F.  W.  N. 
McCracken)  was  in  reserve  about  Ciply,  two  miles  south  of 
Mons.  The  rest  of  the  artillery  of  the  3rd  Division  was 
held  for  the  present  mostly  in  reserve — XXIII.  Brigade 
R.F.A.  north  of  Ciply,  and  XLII.  R.F.A.,  together  with 
the  48th  Heavy  Battery,  at  Nouvelles  (1|  miles  east  of 
Ciply).  The  XXX.  Howitzer  Brigade  was  still  on  its  way 
from  Valenciennes. 

Passing  westward  to  the  5th  Division  (Major-General 
Sir  C.  Fergusson),  the  13th  Brigade  (Br.-General  G.  J. 
Cuthbert)  was  posted,  with  a  three-mile  front,  on  the  left 
of  the  9th,  the  1 /Royal  West  Kent  covering  the  bridges 
which  span  the  canal  immediately  east  of  St.  Ghislain,  with 
four  guns  of  the  120th  Field  Battery  in  close  support  on 
the  tow-path.  On  the  left  of  the  West  Kent,  who  had  dug 
themselves  excellent  trenches  by  the  railway  bridge,  the 
2/King's  Own  Scottish  Borderers,  with  the  machine  guns 
of  the  2/King's  Own  Yorkshire  Light  Infantry,  occupied  the 
canal  up  to,  but  not  including,  the  railway  bridge  at  Les 
Herbieres,  with  one  company  entrenched  on  the  road  north 
of  that  bridge.  The  two  remaining  battalions  of  the  13th 
Brigade  were  held  in  reserve  in  St.  Ghislain,  in  rear  of  the 
centre  of  the  brigade  front. 

On  the  left  of  the  13th  Brigade,  the  14th  (Br.-General 
S.  P.  Rolt)  occupied  the  line  of  the  canal  from  the  railway 
bridge  of  Les  Herbieres  westward  to  Pommeroeul  road 
bridge,  a  front  of  2i  miles.  The  1/East  Surrey  were  on  the 
right,  holding  the  railway  bridge  itself,  with  one  company 
pushed  across  to  the  north  bank.  From  the  foot-bridge 
south  of  La  Hamaide,  the  1/Duke  of  Cornwall's  Light 
Infantry  prolonged  the  front  to  Pommeroeul  bridge.  Here 
again  a  platoon,  together  with  the  machine-gun  section, 
was  sent  across  the  canal  to  form  a  bridgehead  upon  the 
north  bank.  The  machine  guns  were  posted  to  sweep  the 
straight  length  of  road  towards  Ville  Pommeroeul ;  but  a 
clear  view  northward  was  obstructed  by  rolling  stock  on 
the  railway,  which  crosses  the  road  about  a  mile  to  north 
of  the  canal.     As  the  Haine  stream,  which  was  unfordable 

^  Two    companies    of    the    1/Fifth    Fusihers   were    in    the    Hne,    the 
remainder  of  the  battahon  was  in  brigade  reserve  with  the  Lincolnsliire. 


BRITISH  DISPOSITIONS  75 

and  had  few  bridges,  passed  about  a  mile  behind  this  part  2:5  Aug. 
of  the  hne,  the  Duke  of  Cornwall's  had  orders  to  hold  the  ^^i"** 
canal  as  an  advanced  position  only,  and  to  retire  when 
necessary  to  a  second  position,  which  the  15th  Brigade 
(Br.-General  Count  Gleichen)  was  directed  to  prepare 
behind  the  Haine.  The  2/Suffolk  and  2 /Manchester,  the 
remaining  battalions  of  the  14th  Brigade,  were  in  reserve. 
The  15th  Brigade  was  divided,  part  preparing  a  position 
on  the  Haine,  with  the  rest  in  reserve  further  to  the  rear 
near  Dour.  From  Pommeroeul  westward  the  4th  Cavalry 
Brigade  was  responsible  for  the  two  remaining  crossing- 
places  east  of  Conde,  at  Lock  5  and  St.  Aybert,  until  the 
19th  Brigade  should  come  up,  and  these  two  points  were 
accordingly  occupied  by  the  Carabiniers.  All  troops  were 
warned  to  expect  an  attack  early  next  morning. 

The  selection  of  positions  along  the  part  of  the  line  held 
by  the  5th  Division  was  a  matter  of  the  greatest  difficulty, 
the  ground  being  a  wilderness  of  deep  ditches,  straggling 
buildings,  casual  roads  and  tracks,  and  high  slag-heaps. 
These  last  seemed  to  offer  points  of  vantage,  which  were 
generally  found  to  be  non-existent  when  their  summits  had 
been  explored,  as  they  were  commanded  by  some  other 
slag-heap  ;  while  certain  of  them,  which  seemed  to  promise 
all  that  could  be  desired,  were  found  to  be  so  hot  that  men 
could  not  stand  on  them.  The  artillery  was  even  more 
embarrassed  than  the  infantry  :  the  officers  had  great 
difficulty  in  finding  suitable  positions  for  batteries  or  even 
for  single  guns,  and  were  equally  at  a  loss  to  discover  good 
observation  posts.  The  general  policy  followed  was  to 
push  batteries  or  sections  of  batteries  up  to  the  infantry 
line  for  close  defence,  and  to  keep  the  mass  of  the  artillery, 
including  the  heavy  battery,  on  the  left,  where  the  guns 
could  cover  all  open  ground  in  anticipation  of  a  turning 
movement  round  that  flank.  Altogether,  the  ground  was 
such  as  to  baffle  the  most  skilful  and  sanguine  of  British 
gunners.  Fortunately,  on  the  enemy  side,  the  con- 
ditions were  almost  identical ;  and,  except  on  the  east, 
where  the  ground  was  more  open,  the  Germans  could  make 
little  use  of  their  overwhelming  superiority  of  numbers  ;  for 
they  were  about  to  match  eight  divisions  against  four,  and 
actually  in  the  infantry  fight  six  against  two  extended 
along  a  front  of  13  miles.  In  fact,  the  line  of  the  II.  Corps 
was  so  thin  that  it  was  little  better  than  an  outpost  line,  a 
chain  of  small  groups,  lying  on  the  canal  bank,  almost  in- 
visible, as  is  shown  in  a  photograph  taken  by  a  machine- 


76  MONS 

gun  officer  during  the  battle  from  his  flanking  gun.  Not 
without  good  reason  was  provision  made  for  a  retrenchment 
across  the  rear  of  the  Salient  and  for  occupying  a  position 
in  rear  of  the  canal,  roughly  Frameries — Wasmes — Dour, 
should  a  strong  attack  develop. 

23  Aug.  The  morning  of  Sunday  the  23rd  broke  in  mist  and  rain, 

1914.  which,  about  10  a.m.,  cleared  off  and  gave  place  to  fair 
Sketches  weather.  Church  bells  rang,  and  the  inhabitants  of  the 
3,  4  &  5 ;  villages  near  the  canal  were  seen  in  their  best  attire  going 
^  y^^  to  worship  as  if  war  was  utterly  distant  from  them.  Trains 
were  running  towards  Mons  crowded  with  the  usual 
holiday  makers.  The  mounted  troops  of  both  armies  how- 
ever were  early  astir.  Those  of  the  British  1st  and  2nd 
Divisions,  reconnoitring  east  of  Mons  towards  the  bridges 
of  Binche,  Bray,  Havre  and  Obourg,  soon  encountered 
small  parties  of  the  enemy.  Near  Obourg  they  were 
pressed  back,  and  at  6  a.m.  the  German  cavalry  exchanged 
shots  with  the  4/Middlesex.  About  the  same  time,  other 
parties  of  German  horse  approached  the  Royal  Fusiliers 
in  the  apex  of  the  Salient,  and  two  officers  of  the  Ger- 
man 3rd  Hussars,  the  corps  cavalry  of  the  ///.  Corps, 
were  made  prisoners.  Another  patrol,  towards  Nimy, 
came  in  sight  of  the  Scots  Fusiliers,  who  killed  one  man, 
and  identified  his  uniform  as  that  of  the  cavalry  regiment 
of  the  IX.  Corps.  Further  west,  two  German  patrols  were 
caught  in  ambush,  near  Ville  Pommeroeul  between  6.30 
and  7  a.m.,  and  two  prisoners  were  taken,  one  a  dragoon, 
the  other  a  hussar :  an  indication  of  the  presence  of  two 
more  regiments,  both  of  the  German  9th  Cavalry  Division. 
The  mounted  troops  of  the  British  5th  Division  crossed 
the  Canal  near  the  posts  of  the  K.O.S.B.  and  of  the  West 
Kent ;  and  both  battalions  pushed  a  reserve  company 
forward  to  secure  their  retreat.  That  of  the  West  Kent, 
"  A  "  Company,  advanced  to  the  road-junction  south  of 
the  village  of  Tertre  ;  that  of  the  Scottish  Borderers  to 
a  pond  about  half  a  mile  north  of  Les  Herbieres  road  bridge. 
Each  side  was  feeling  for  the  other  in  expectation  of  the 
coming  shock. 

There  could  be  little  doubt  where  the  first  blow  would 
fall.  The  Germans  were  completing  a  wheel  from  east  to 
south,  and  immediately  opposite  to  the  eastern,  or  stand- 
ing flank  of  Kluck's  Army  lay  the  Mons  Salient.  Before 
9  A.M.  German  guns  were  in  position  on  the  high  ground 
north  of  the  canal,  and  very  soon  shells  were  bursting 


FIRST  CONTACT  77 

thickly  along  the  whole  line  of  the  Middlesex  and  the  23  Aug. 
Royal  Fusiliers,  One  German  battery  commander  boldly  ^^^^* 
unlimbered  his  guns  in  the  open,  and  began  firing  at  a 
range  of  1,500  yards  ;  but  he  was  speedily  compelled  to 
shift  his  ground  by  the  machine  guns  of  the  Middlesex. 
By  9  A.M.  German  infantry  was  pressing  on  to  engage 
the  Middlesex  about  Obourg  and,  as  the  hostile  movement 
from  north-east  to  south-west  developed  itself,  troops, 
all  apparently  of  the  IX,  Corps,  gradually  spread  around 
the  entire  curve  of  the  Salient  from  Obourg  to  Nimy. 
By  10  A.M.  the  company  in  Obourg  was  heavily  engaged 
and,  indeed,  hard  pressed  ;  and,  shortly  afterwards,  the 
machine-gun  section  of  the  Royal  Irish  joined  that  of  the 
Middlesex.  Meanwhile,  the  Royal  Fusiliers  were  cease- 
lessly shooting  down  Germans,  who  at  first  came  on  in 
heavy  masses,  but,  being  caught  by  the  rapid  fire  of  the 
Fusiliers  in  front  and  by  the  machine  guns  of  the  Middlesex 
and  Royal  Irish  in  flank,  soon  abandoned  this  costly  method 
of  attack.  They  then  began  working  across  the  front  in  small 
parties,  in  order  to  form  for  a  fresh  effort  under  cover  of  the 
woods.  The  British  troops  in  the  Salient  had  orders  to  make 
"  a  stubborn  resistance  "  ;  the  Middlesex  and  the  Royal 
Fusiliers,  therefore,  defended  themselves  with  tenacity,  and 
until  past  11  a.m.  were  still  holding  their  original  positions. 

As  the  southward  wheel  of  Kluck's  Army  progressed, 
the  attack  gradually  spread  westward  along  the  line  of  the 
canal.  The  right  of  the  German  IX.  Corps  did  not  appear 
to  extend  beyond  Nimy  ;  ^  and  it  was  not  until  11  a.m. 
that  the  ///.  Corps,  which  was  next  on  the  right  of  it, 
came  into  action  about  the  bridge  of  Jemappes,  2  miles 
west  of  Mons.  German  shells  fell  in  Jemappes  itself,  in 
rear  of  the  Scots  Fusiliers  ;  the  infantry  almost  simul- 
taneously advanced  in  heavy  lines.  The  forward  post  of 
the  Scots  Fusiliers  north  of  the  canal  was  thereupon  with- 
drawn, and,  as  the  Germans  came  nearer,  they  were  met  by 
a  fire  of  rifles  and  machine  guns  which  effectually  checked 
their  progress.  After  a  pause  they  came  on  again,  taking 
shelter  behind  the  northern  bank  of  the  canal,  and  actually 
closed  to  within  two  hundred  yards  of  the  bridge  at  Lock 
2,  west  of  Jemappes,  when  they  were  compelled  by  the 
accuracy  of  the  British  fire  once  more  to  fall  back.^ 

^  This  is  now  known  to  be  correct  (see  Sketch  3  in  "  Mons  "). 
^  Hauptmann    (Professor)   Heubner,   of  the   20th   Infantry   Regiment, 
5lh  Division,  III.  Corps,  who  witnessed  tlie  attack  at  Jemappes,  in  his 


78  MONS 

At  Mariette,  3|  miles  west  of  Mons,  still  in  the  9th 
Brigade  area,  German  shells  found  the  bridge  immedi- 
ately, and  a  column  of  infantry  in  fours  came  swinging 
down  a  country  road  immediately  to  the  east.  It  was 
promptly  stopped  by  the  fire  of  a  small  party,  under  a 
corporal,  which  occupied  a  house  in  the  angle  between 
this  road  and  the  waterway.  The  enemy  then  tried  an 
advance  down  the  main  road  ;  but  this  had  been  obstructed 
by  a  wire  entanglement  immediately  north  and  west  of  the 
bridge,  and  by  a  barricade  south  of  it ;  two  companies  of 
the  Fifth  Fusiliers,  too,  under  Major  C.  Yatman  (the  other 
two  companies  were  in  brigade  reserve  at  Cuesnes)  were 
disposed,  under  good  shelter,  on  both  flanks  of  the  road, 
both  in  advance  and  in  rear  of  the  bridge.  Under  a 
withering  fire  from  three  sides,  the  Germans  pressed  on 
to  the  wire,  only  to  be  driven  back  with  heavy  loss. 

They  now  brought  up  two  field  guns  within  half  a  mile 
of  the  canal,  and  opened  fire  with  high-explosive  shell  upon 
the  defenders  of  the  bridge  :  not  without  effect,  for  a  shell 
bursting  in  the  occupied  house  on  the  east  side  of  the  road 
killed  the  whole  of  the  little  garrison.  But,  instead  of 
grey-coated  soldiers,  a  number  of  little  Belgian  girls  came 
down  the  road,  and  the  Fifth  Fusiliers  naturally  ceased 
their  fire.^  Thereupon,  the  Germans  swarmed  forward 
and,  flooding  over  to  the  western  side  of  the  main  road, 
were  able  to  establish  themselves  within  two  hundred 
yards  of  the  canal,  whence  they  could  bring  an  oblique 
fire  to  bear  upon  the  defenders  of  the  barricade.  The 
advanced  party  of  the  Fifth  on  the  north  side  of  the  bridge 
was  then  withdrawn  ;  but  the  Germans  were  still  far  from 
being  masters  of  the  passage  of  the  canal  at  Mariette  ;  and 
the  Fifth  Fusiliers  for  the  moment  held  their  own  with  no 
great  difficulty  and  without  serious  loss. 

Further  to  the  left,  in  the  13th  Brigade  area,  "  A  "  Com- 
pany of  the  West  Kent,  at  the  cross  roads  south  of  Tertre, 
which  was  in  support  of  the  5th  Division  mounted  troops, 
was  warned  by  the  cyclists  of  the  advance  of  the  enemy  in 

book  "  Unter  Emmich  vor  Liittich,  Unter  Kluck  vor  Paris,"  pp.  69  and  74, 
speaks  of  the  "  numerous  wounded  "  of  the  regiment  which  attempted 
to  storm  the  railway  and  factory  ;  and  at  the  end  of  the  day  says  "  that 
"  they  [the  Enghsh],  in  any  case,  fought  bravely  and  obstinately  is  proved 
"  by  the  heavy  losses  that  our  German  troops  suffered  here." 

^  E\ndence  of  Captain  B.  T.  St.  John,  conunanding  the  company  of 
the  Fifth  Fusiliers  which  held  Mariette  Bridge.  It  is  not  suggested  that 
the  enemy  drove  them  deliberately  in  front  of  him.  In  many  cases 
inhabitants  were  caught  between  the  two  hostile  lines. 


FIRST  CONTACT  79 

force.  This  company  had  found  a  fair  field  of  fire  ;  but  the  23  Aug. 
Hne  of  retreat  to  the  canal  was  difficult,  the  ground  being  i^^*- 
cut  up  by  many  deep  ditches  and  barbed  wire  fences.  As 
far  as  time  permitted,  passages  had  been  cut  through  the 
wire,  so  that  during  its  retirement  the  company  might  not 
mask  the  fire  of  the  main  body  on  the  canal  ;  but  the 
preparations  were  scarcely  completed  before  a  small  party 
of  the  cyclists  came  at  top  speed  down  the  road  from 
Tertre  and  reported  that  the  Germans  had  brought  up  guns 
to  drive  them  from  the  village.  The  leading  German 
infantry  regiment,  the  Brandenburg  Grenadiers  of  the  5th 
Division  of  the  ///.  Corps,  had,  in  fact,  moved  south- 
ward upon  Tertre  from  Baudour,  and  the  battalion 
which  was  at  its  head  had  encountered  considerable  re- 
sistance from  the  cyclists.  Five  minutes  after  this  alarm 
had  reached  the  West  Kent  company  (that  is  to  say  at 
about  11.10  A.M.),  this  German  battalion  debouched  from 
Tertre  and  moved  southward,  the  bulk  of  the  men  being  in 
massed  formation  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  road  to  St. 
Ghislain,  with  parties  in  extended  order  upon  either  flank. 
They  were  met  by  a  shattering  fire  of  rifles  and  machine 
guns,  and  were  seen  to  suffer  heavily.  The  commander  of 
the  German  regiment  then  made  a  regular  attack  with  the 
support  of  artillery,  deploying  his  two  remaining  battalions 
to  the  right  and  left  of  the  first.  By  the  German  account, 
the  Brandenburgers  suffered  some  loss  in  the  village  of 
Tertre  from  the  British  artillery,  presumably  from  the 
guns  of  the  120th  Battery  on  the  canal.  Meanwhile  "  A  " 
Company  commander  received  a  message  from  the  divisional 
cavalry,  a  squadron  of  the  19th  Hussars,  which  had  gone 
out  in  the  direction  of  Hautrage,  north-west  of  Tertre, 
asking  him  to  cover  its  retirement ;  and  accordingly  he 
clung  to  his  position,  while  three  German  battalions,  a 
German  battery  and  a  German  machine-gun  company  all 
came  into  action  against  him.  The  pressure  soon  became 
so  strong  that  he  began  gradually  to  withdraw  by  succession 
of  platoons,  the  men  behaving  with  the  greatest  steadiness 
and  firing  with  great  effect  as  the  enemy  came  within 
closer  range.  The  rearmost  platoon,  in  fact,  fought  its 
way  out  with  the  Germans  within  a  hundred  yards  of  it 
in  front  and  upon  both  flanks.  Eventually  about  half  of 
the  company  rejoined  the  battalion  on  the  canal,  the 
remainder  having  been  killed  or  wounded,  and  left,  in- 
evitably, to  fall  into  the  enemy's  hands.  This  was  the 
fate  of  the  company  commander,   Captain  G.  D.  Lister, 


80  MONS 

and  of  one  of  his  subalterns  ;  but  his  men  had  made  a 
magnificent  fight  and  inflicted  far  heavier  losses  than  they 
received. 

Having  cleared  this  advanced  party  out  of  their  way, 
the  Brandenburg  Grenadiers,  covered  now  by  the  fire  of 
four  or  five  field  batteries,  swarmed  forward  over  the  maze 
of  wire  fences  and  boggy  dykes  against  the  main  positions 
of  the  West  Kent  and  the  Scottish  Borderers  on  the  canal. 
The  four  guns  of  the  British  120th  Battery  were  soon 
compelled  to  withdraw,  apparently  about  noon  ;  ^  though, 
later  on,  the  remaining  section  found  a  position  upon  a 
slag-heap,  further  to  the  south  and  east,  and  came  into 
action  with  considerable  effect.  But  the  positions  of  the 
British  infantry  were  so  well  chosen  and  concealed  that 
the  German  artillery  failed  to  discover  them,  and  hence 
the  progress  of  the  German  infantry  was  both  slow  and 
costly.  In  any  case,  the  attack  upon  the  bridge  of  St, 
Ghislain  was  stopped  while  still  three  hundred  yards  dis- 
tant from  the  canal  by  the  accurate  fire  of  the  West  Kent, 
the  machine  guns  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I.,  and  the  half  company 
of  the  K.O.S.B.,  on  the  left  of  the  bridge,  who  all  alike  had 
excellent  targets,  and  took  advantage  of  them  to  the  full, 
with  little  loss  to  themselves.  The  Germans  imagined 
that  they  were  everywhere  opposed  by  machine  guns  only, 
not  realizing  the  intensity  of  British  rapid  fire.^ 

In  this  area,  the  enemy  attack  spread  westward  to- 
wards noon  to  the  bridges  of  Les  Herbieres,  where  the 
52nd  Infantry  Regiment  contrived,  with  great  skill,  to  pass 
men  by  driblets  over  the  road  into  the  reedy  marshes 
alongside  the  canal,  and  even  to  send  one  or  two  machine 
guns  with  them.  Reinforcements  of  the  2/Duke  of  Well- 
ington's and  2/K.O. Y.L.I,  were  called  up  about  2  p.m.  in 

1  See  page  74. 

2  A  full  and  dramatic  account  of  the  attack  of  the  Brandenburg 
Grenadier  Regiment  is  given  in  "  Vormarsch,"  by  Walter  Bloem,  the 
novelist,  who,  as  a  reserve  officer,  was  commanding  one  of  the  companies. 
He  states  that  he  lost  all  five  of  his  company  officers  and  half  his  men. 
The  battalion  commander  said  to  him  in  the  evening,  "  You  are  my  sole 
"  and  only  support  .  .  .  you  are  the  only  company  commander  left  in  the 
"  battalion  .  .  .  the  battalion  is  a  mere  wreck,  my  proud,  beautiful 
*'  battalion  !  "  And  the  regiment  was  "  shot  down,  smashed  up — only  a 
"  handful  left."  Bloem  adds,  "  Our  first  battle  is  a  heavy,  unheard  of  heavy, 
"  defeat,  and  against  the  English,  the  English  we  laughed  at."  The  regi- 
ment was  withdrawn  a  quarter  of  a  mile  as  soon  as  it  was  dark,  and  spent 
an  anxious  night,  for,  as  the  colonel  said,  "  if  the  English  have  the  slight- 
'■  est  suspicion  of  our  condition,  and  counter-attack,  they  will  simply  run 
"  over  us."     "  Vormarsch  "  has  been  translated  under  the  title  of  "The 

Advance  from  Mons  1914  "  (Peter  Davies). 


n 


FIRST  CONTACT  81 

closer  support  of  the  Scottish  Borderers,  the  former  suffer-  23  Aug. 
ing  a  few  casualties  from  shell  fire  ;  but  their  services  were    i^^^- 
not  required,  for  the  German  attack  had  already  come  to  a 
standstill. 

At  the  railway  bridge  of  Les  Herbieres  the  Germans — 
of  the  6th  Division  of  the  ///.  Corps — began  by  bringing  a 
machine  gun  into  action  in  a  house  about  half  a  mile  from 
the  barricade  put  up  by  the  East  Surrey  (14th  Brigade). 
This  was  instantly  silenced  by  one  of  the  East  Surrey 
machine  guns  ;  the  Germans,  thereupon,  searched  all  the 
houses  round  the  railway  bridge  with  shell,  in  the  hope  of 
locating  it.  They  then  tried  to  push  forward  in  small 
columns,  but  were  stopped  short  by  rifle  and  machine- 
gun  fire,  which  also  dispersed  a  group  of  German  staff 
officers  a  thousand  yards  away  and  further  to  the  east. 
The  enemy  then  plied  the  East  Surrey  defences  with 
shrapnel  and  machine-gun  fire  for  half  an  hour,  causing 
no  casualties,  but  disabling  one  machine  gun  ;  after  which, 
about  1.30  P.M.,  he  attacked  with  two  battalions  of  the 
52nd  in  mass,  which  advanced  across  the  open  at  a  range 
of  six  hundred  yards.  Such  a  target  was  all  that  the 
British  could  wish  for  :  another  company  of  the  East 
Surrey  had  by  this  time  joined  the  one  astride  the  embank- 
ment, and  three  platoons  of  the  Suffolk  had  also  come  up 
to  cover  their  left  flank.  Rapid  rifle  fire,  combined  with 
long  bursts  at  selected  objects  from  the  remaining  machine 
gun  at  the  barricade,  mowed  down  large  numbers  of  the 
enemy  and  scattered  the  rest.  At  this  point,  therefore, 
the  Germans  were  decisively  repulsed  with  very  heavy 
loss,  at  the  cost  of  trifling  casualties  to  the  East  Surrey. 

Thus  far,  seven  miles  west  of  Mons,  the  German  attack 
had  spread  during  the  forenoon  and  the  early  afternoon  ;  the 
line  of  the  infantry  of  the  ///.  Corps  did  not  extend  further 
westward,  while  that  of  the  /  V.  Corps  had  not  had  time  to 
complete  its  wheel  to  the  south,  so  that  the  1/Duke  of 
Cornwall's  L.I.  at  Pommeroeul  had  not  yet  come  into 
action. 

Throughout  the  forenoon  and  the  early  afternoon.  Map  7. 
that  is  to  say,  until  2  p.m.,  all  had  remained  quiet  opposite 
the  I.  Corps,  which  it  will  be  remembered  faced  north- 
east. Between  11  a.m.  and  12.30  p.m.  the  2nd  Division 
had  reached  its  destination,  and  the  6th  Brigade  took 
position  on  the  left  of  the  corps  between  Vellereille  le  Sec 
and  Harmignies,  with  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  in  rear 

VOL.  I  G 


82  MONS 

of  it  about  Harveng,  and  the  5th  still  further  to  the  rear 
at  Genly  and  Bougnies.  The  3rd  and  6th  Brigades  now 
therefore  held  the  front  of  the  I.  Corps.  About  2  p.m. 
German  guns  at  some  point  between  Binche  and  Bray, 
3|  miles  to  the  north-east,  opened  fire  upon  the  ridge  of 
Haulehin,  against  the  left  of  the  3rd  Brigade.  About  half 
an  hour  later  German  cavalry  ^  was  seen  moving  across 
the  British  front  north-west  from  Bray  towards  St.  Sym- 
phorien.  The  22nd  and  70th  Field  Batteries,  which  were 
unlimbered  about  Vellereille  le  Sec,  were  able  to  shell  these 
parties  with  good  effect,  but  in  return  were  heavily  shelled 
by  batteries  which  they  were  unable  to  locate.  The  4th 
(Guards)  Brigade  was  pushed  forward  to  extend  the  line 
of  the  6th  from  Harmignies  north-west  along  the  road  to 
Mons,  and  various  battalions,  coming  under  artillery  fire  in 
the  course  of  the  afternoon,  suffered  a  few  casualties.  But 
heavy  firing  could  be  heard  to  the  north  about  Mons. 
About  3  P.M.  a  message  from  Major-General  H.  I.  W. 
Hamilton  reported  a  serious  attack  on  the  3rd  Division, 
and  asked  for  assistance.  Though  the  situation  on  the 
right  of  the  I.  Corps  was  not  yet  clear,  for  the  Germans 
were  still  shelling  the  3rd  Brigade  severely.  General  Haig 
directed  that  two  battalions  of  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade 
should  take  over  the  defence  of  Hill  93  from  the  3rd 
Division,  and  thus  afford  it  some  relief.  The  news  brought 
in  by  the  1st  and  2nd  Division  cavalry  at  3  p.m.,  that 
the  French  east  of  the  I.  Corps  had  been  obliged  to  fall 
back  a  little,  might  well  cause  some  anxiety ;  but  the  more 
pressing  danger  lay  on  the  left  of  the  I.  Corps  in  the  vicinity 
of  Mons.  In  every  other  sector  of  the  line  the  British 
were  holding  their  own  with  ease,  and  were  punishing  all 
attempts  to  force  the  passage  of  the  canal  with  severity  ; 
but  in  the  Salient,  the  weakest  and  most  critical  point  of 
the  line,  the  situation  was  not  so  satisfactory. 

Map  7.  We  left  the  4/Middlesex  of  the  8th  Brigade,  and  the 
4/Royal  Fusiliers  of  the  9th  between  11  a.m.  and  noon 
making  "  a  stubborn  resistance  "  on  the  curve  from  Obourg 
to  Nimy,  north-east  of  Mons.  Br.-General  Doran  (8th 
Brigade)  had  early  given  orders  to  the  2/Royal  Irish, 
whose  companies  had  covered  the  ground  in  front  of  Hill 
93  and  Bois  la  Haut  during  the  night,  to  assemble  north 
of  the  latter  hill,  and  by  noon  the  entire  battalion  was 
collected  there.     Just  about  that  time,  the  Middlesex  at 

1  The  16th  Dragoons  (see  "  Mons  "). 


THE  SALIENT  83 

Obourg,  finding  that  Germans  were  nearly  in  rear  of  them,  2.3  Aug. 
began  to  fall  back  westward  through  the  Bois  d'Havre,  ^^i*- 
the  wood  just  south  of  Obourg,  and  the  enemy  artillery 
began  to  shell  the  main  line  of  the  8th  Brigade,  south-east 
of  Mons,  with  shrapnel,  but  without  much  effect ;  for  it 
could  not  see  the  position  of  the  Royal  Scots  along  the 
Harmignies — Mons  road,  and  the  majority  of  the  Gordon 
Highlanders  were  hidden  from  view.  Infantry  then  ad- 
vanced by  rushes  obliquely  across  the  front  of  these  two 
battalions,  heading  for  Hill  93  and  offering  excellent 
targets.  The  rifles  of  both  battalions  were  soon  effectively 
employed,  whilst  the  machine  guns  of  the  Royal  Scots, 
thrown  slightly  forward  in  a  quarry  about  the  centre  of 
the  Hne,  poured  in  a  deadly  enfilade  fire.  The  49th  Battery 
also  contributed  to  the  enemy's  discomfiture  by  firing 
shrapnel  from  Bois  la  Haut.  Thus,  in  this  quarter  the 
enemy  was  brought  to  a  complete  standstill  three  hundred 
yards  from  the  British  trenches. 

Within  the  Salient  the  conditions  were  very  different. 
The  Germans  shortly  after  noon  succeeded  in  passing 
the  canal  west  of  Obourg,  and  in  reaching  the  railway  ; 
then,  taught  by  hard  experience,  they  abandoned  massed 
formation  and  advanced  in  extended  order.  At  12.30  p.m. 
the  Royal  Irish  were  ordered  to  reinforce  the  Middlesex 
and  moved  off  in  the  direction  of  Hill  62  under  heavy 
fire  of  artillery  and  machine  guns,  which  so  delayed  them 
that  it  was  nearly  1.30  p.m.  before  they  deployed  on  the 
left  of  the  Middlesex.  Anything  in  the  nature  of  a  local 
counter-attack  to  relieve  the  situation  was  out  of  the 
question,  owing  to  wire  fences  and  other  obstacles.  Far 
from  gaining  ground,  the  Royal  Irish  could  only  just  hold 
their  own.  They  now  shifted  their  machine  guns,  which 
had  previously  been  massed  with  those  of  the  Middlesex, 
to  the  extreme  right  of  their  own  front.  They  had  not 
long  been  there  when  a  body  of  Uhlans  debouched  from 
a  wood  about  six  hundred  yards  east  of  them  :  instantly 
fire  was  opened  from  both  rifles  and  machine  guns.  The 
German  horsemen  turned  about  but,  as  they  retired,  were 
caught  in  flank  by  the  fire  of  some  of  the  Middlesex  falling 
back  from  Obourg.  This,  however,  though  satisfactory, 
was  but  an  incident  if  the  IX.  Corps  was  attacking  in 
earnest,  and  every  minute  went  to  show  that  this  was  the 
case. 

The  situation  of  the  Royal  Irish  and  the  Middlesex  was 
precarious  in  the  extreme ;  for  they  were  not  in  a  well  con- 


84  MONS 

cealed  position  which  the  German  artillery  could  not  exactly 
locate,  or  with  a  good  field  of  fire  before  them.  On  the 
contrary,  their  ground  was  under  good  observation  from 
the  heights  on  the  north  of  the  canal ;  and  the  German 
batteries,^  having  complete  ascendency,  kept  them  under 
heavy  fire.  Under  the  protection  of  this  fire,  the  enemy 
infantry  slowly  gained  ground  by  sheer  weight  of  numbers, 
although  not  without  loss.  Shortly  after  2  p.m.  the 
machine-gun  section  of  the  Royal  Irish  tried  to  come  into 
action  on  the  road  about  three  hundred  yards  north  of 
Bois  la  Haut,  but  one  gun  was  at  once  disabled  and  had 
to  be  abandoned.  Returning  to  the  original  position,  the 
remaining  gun  again  came  into  action,  but  called  down 
upon  itself  a  concentrated  fire  of  guns  and  machine  guns, 
which  disabled  it  immediately  and  killed  or  wounded  every 
man  of  the  section.  The  machine  guns  of  the  Middlesex 
were  also  in  trouble  ;  for  the  Germans  had  brought  up  at 
least  six  of  these  weapons  against  them,  and  the  officer 
in  command  of  the  section  had  been  wounded,  though  he 
still  remained  in  charge  of  his  men.  By  3.15  p.m.  the 
German  infantry,  in  great  force,  was  within  a  furlong  of 
the  Royal  Irish  and  working  round  both  flanks  ;  so, 
after  consultation  with  Lieut-. Colonel  C.  P.  A.  Hull  of  the 
Middlesex,  Major  S.  E.  St.  Leger  who  was  in  command 
decided  to  withdraw  the  Royal  Irish  some  fifteen  hundred 
yards  southward  to  the  northern  slopes  of  Bois  la  Haut. 
The  right  of  their  line  moved  first,  meanwhile  the  re- 
mainder were  collected  into  two  bodies  :  one  by  Colonel 
Hull  on  the  northern  slopes  of  Hill  62,  and  the  other  at 
its  north-eastern  corner.  The  latter  helped  greatly  to 
cover  the  retreat,  which  was  conducted  methodically  and 
in  good  order.  Finally  the  battalion  rallied  on  the  left 
of  the  left  company  of  the  Gordons  whose  line  now 
extended  almost  to  the  cross  roads  north  of  Bois  la  Haut, 
the  time  being  then  about  4  p.m.  The  shelling  was  still 
very  heavy,  and  the  cross  roads  themselves  were  swept 
by  machine  guns  from  the  east,  though  some  buildings 
at  that  point  and  the  ground  west  of  the  cross  roads 
gave  some  protection  from  bullets.  A  section  of  the  49th 
Battery  unlimbered  on  the  left  of  the  Royal  Irish  and, 
though  greatly  exposed,  gave  them  some  support. 

The  Middlesex  fell  back  about  the  same  time  as  the 
Royal  Irish,  between  them  and  the  9th  Brigade  in  Mons, 

1  Of  the  18th  Division  between  St.  Denis  and  Masieres,  3  miles  north- 
east of  Mons. 


THE  SALIENT  85 

though,  being  more  widely  extended,  they  were  less  easily  23  Aug. 
re-formed.  One  company,  on  leaving  the  Bois  d'Havre,  i^i*- 
which  lies  south  of  Obourg,  entered  the  deserted  rifle  pits 
of  the  Royal  Irish  and  there  for  a  time  stood  fast.  But 
the  retreat  of  both  battalions  was  facilitated  by  the  fate 
of  the  first  German  attack  upon  the  hill  of  Bois  la  Haut 
itself.  This  attack  was  opened  by  about  a  company  of 
German  infantry,  which,  with  scouts  in  front  of  it,  emerged 
gradually  from  a  wood  against  the  left  centre  company  of 
the  Gordons.  The  Highlanders  allowed  the  scouts  to  ad- 
vance and  held  their  fire  until  greater  numbers  appeared  ; 
then  they  opened  rapid  fire  at  five  hundred  yards'  range, 
and  in  a  few  minutes  stopped  the  attack  with  heavy  loss. 
Thereby  a  short  respite  was  gained,  which  enabled  the 
retiring  battalions  to  settle  down  in  their  new  positions. 

Earlier,  at  2  p.m.,  the  Royal  Fusiliers,  in  obedience  to 
Br.-General  Shaw's  (9th  Brigade)  orders,  withdrew  south- 
wards from  Nimy,  the  supporting  companies  covering  the 
retirement  of  the  advanced  companies  with  peace-time 
precision.  Their  losses  did  not  greatly  exceed  one  hundred  ; 
and  after  re-forming  in  Mons  the  battalion  moved  south- 
ward again  to  Ciply.^  The  Lincolnshire  had  been  em- 
ployed since  noon  in  barricading  the  three  roads  which 
lead  from  Mons  to  the  south ;  but  the  Germans  did  not 
follow  the  Royal  Fusiliers  very  closely,  and  when  at  last 
they  tried  to  debouch  by  the  main  road  from  Mons, 
they  were  met  by  a  destructive  fire  from  the  Lincolnshire 
at  the  barricade  and  by  a  few  shells  from  the  109th 
Battery  at  close  range.  Unable  to  make  any  progress, 
they  turned  westward,  leaving  the  Lincolnshire  to  retire 
at  their  leisure  by  Mesvin  upon  Nouvelles,  3  miles  south 
of  Mons. 

Owing  to  the  close  proximity  of  the  enemy  only  the 
bridge  over  the  canal  to  the  north-west  of  Mons  was  blown 
up  in  this  sector,  although  charges  were  laid.  An  officer 
of  the  57th  Field  Company  R.E.  was  taken  prisoner  at  the 
Nimy  bridge  and  all  the  work  was  done  under  sniping. 
One  charge  which  had  been  placed  in  position  was  removed 
by  a  shell. 

West  of  the  Salient,  about  3  p.m  the  Scots  Fusiliers  (9th  xAlap  7. 
Brigade)  likewise  fell  back,  by  order,  through  Jemappes 

^  Lieut.  M.  J.  Dease  (who  died  of  wounds)  and  Private  S.  F.  Godley 
of  the  4/Royal  FusiHers  were  awarded  the  V.C.  for  the  manner  in  which 
they  fought  the  machine  gvms.  All  the  men  of  two  crews  were  killed  or 
wounded. 


86  MONS 

upon  Frameries,  3  miles  from  the  canal.  Here,  since  two  of 
the  three  bridges  had  not  been  destroyed,  from  lack  of  an 
"  exploder"  to  fire  the  charges,  the  Germans  followed  hard 
after,  and  there  M^as  sharp  fighting  among  the  slag-heaps. 
Some  of  the  Fusiliers,  firing  from  the  houses,  used  their 
weapons  with  special  effect ;  but  two  companies  seeking  a 
route  between  the  slag-heaps  suffered  much  from  machine 
guns  which  the  Germans  had  instantly  brought  forward, 
and  for  a  time  were  in  serious  difficulties,  the  ground  being 
most  unfavourable  either  for  defence  or  for  the  co-opera- 
tion of  artillery.  About  4  p.m.,  however,  a  portion  of  the 
two  reserve  companies  of  the  Fifth  Fusiliers,  which 
were  covering  the  retirement  of  the  right  of  the  9th 
Brigade,  struck  in  from  the  east  upon  the  flank  of  the 
Germans,  and,  after  some  fighting,  enabled  the  Scots 
Fusiliers  to  extricate  themselves  and  to  re-form  in 
Frameries.  The  German  guns  were  sufficiently  far  ad- 
vanced to  shell  the  position  of  the  South  Lancashire  (7th 
Brigade),  a  mile  north  of  the  village,  but  only  one  or  two 
^^^,^  small  parties  of  enemy  infantry  approached  it.     The  two 

,  U^im^n  forward  companies  of  the  Fifth  Fusiliers^eanwhile  stuck 
'  ^  to  their  position  on  the  canal,  in  spite  of  the  command  to 

''*''^^*'  retire,  in  order  to  cover  the  engineers  who  were  preparing 
*w«^«^^^'j;he  bridge  of  Mariette  for  destruction.  Despite  the  re- 
markable coolness  and  gallantry  of  Captain  T.  Wright, 
R.E,,^  who  swung  himself  forward,  hand  over  hand,  under 
the  bridge  to  connect  the  charges,  the  work  could  not  be 
completed,  though  he  made  a  second  attempt  after  being 
wounded  in  the  head.  It  was  not  until  5  p.m.  when  the 
sappers  had  withdrawn,  after  collecting  all  their  gear,  that 
these  two  companies  of  the  Fifth  retired  towards  Frameries. 
The  Germans  made  no  effort  to  press  them  and,  in  fact, 
did  not  immediately  cross  the  bridge. 

Further  to  the  left,  the  13th  Brigade  still  held  its  posi- 
tion on  the  canal,  though  the  fire  of  the  German  artillery 
steadily  increased  in  the  course  of  the  afternoon.  The 
enemy,  indeed,  pushed  forward  three  batteries  to  within 
twelve  hundred  yards  of  the  canal  about  St.  Ghislain,  and 
smothered  the  13th  Brigade  with  shells,  but  did  remarkably 
little  damage.  Indeed,  it  was  not  until  about  6  p.m.,  when 
guns  were  brought  up  within  close  range  and  destroyed  the 

1  Captain  Wright,  who  was  killed  on  the  Aisne,  14th  September, 
received  the  V.C.  for  this  service.  Lance-Corporal  C.  A.  Jarvis,  57th  Field 
Company,  R.E.,  also  received  it  for  working  1^  hours  imder  heavy  fire 
and  successfully  firing  the  charges  at  Jemappes  station  bridge. 


THE  CANAL  LINE  WEST  OF  MONS  87 

barricade  over  Les  Herbieres  road  bridge  that  the  Scottish  23  Aug. 
Borderers  withdrew  to  the  southern  bank.  The  East  i^i"*- 
Surreys  (14th  Brigade)  withdrew  their  advanced  parties 
from  north  of  the  canal  about  the  same  time.  The  bat- 
tahon  then  retired  by  alternate  companies  to  the  position 
ordered  near  Thulin,  south  of  the  Haine.  Nevertheless  in 
this  quarter  the  Germans  were  unable  to  make  the  slight- 
est progress,  and,  indeed,  at  dusk  the  West  Kent  were  still 
holding  their  position  north  of  the  canal. ^  Parties  of  the 
17th  Field  Company  R.E.  remained  near  the  bridges  in 
this  sector  until  1.30  a.m.  on  the  24th,  when,  after  all  the 
infantry  had  withdrawn,  they  blew  up  the  railway  and 
road  bridges  at  St.  Ghislain,  and  the  three  bridges  to  the 
west. 

On  the  left  of  the  East  Surreys  the  Duke  of  Cornwall's 
L.I.  were  left  wholly  undisturbed  until  4.45  p.m.  when  a 
mass  of  German  cavalry  coming  down  the  road  from  Ville 
Pommeroeul  was  driven  back  headlong  by  machine-gun 
and  rapid  rifle  fire.  Immediately  afterwards,  the  advanced 
parties  were  recalled  to  the  southern  bank  of  the  canal ;  the 
bridge  was  blown  up  by  the  59th  Field  Company  R.E.,  and 
the  adjacent  bridges  near  Pommeroeul  by  the  1st  Field 
Squadron  R.E. ;  and  then  all  fell  back  across  the  Haine 
to  the  second  position. 

On  the  extreme  left,  the  19th  Brigade  relieved  the 
Cavalry  Division  between  2  and  3  p.m.,  the  1/Middlesex 
and  the  Cameronians  taking  the  line  up  to  Conde.  Soon 
after  5  p.m.  an  attack  was  made  upon  Lock  5,  when 
the  enemy  contrived  to  mount  a  machine  gun  in  a  house 
commanding  the  buildings.  The  lock  bridge  was  therefore 
blown  up  by  the  1st  Field  Squadron  R.E.,  but  the  1/Middle- 
sex, though  it  abandoned  the  buildings,  continued  to  hold 
its  own  without  difficulty  and  with  trifling  loss.  The  two 
bridges  at  St.  Aybert,  further  west,  were  destroyed  at 
3  A.M.  on  the  24th,  after  all  the  cavalry  parties  had  come  in. 

Such,  therefore,  was  the  condition  of  affairs  west  of  Map  7. 
the  Salient  whilst  the  2/Royal  Irish  and  4/Middlesex  were 
defending  their  second  position  north  of  Bois  la  Haut ;  the 
facts  most  important  to  them  were,  that  the  Germans,  in 
consequence  of  the  retirement,  by  order,  of  the  9th  Brigade, 
were  defiling  through  Mons,  and,  though  checked  for  a 
time  at  its  southern  border,  had  nearly  reached  Frameries, 
3  miles  south-west  of  the  town.     About  5  p.m.  the  main 

^  See  page  80,  f.n.  2. 


88  MONS 

body  of  the  Royal  Irish  was  again  forced  to  retire.  By 
that  time  the  men  of  the  Middlesex  who  had  occupied  the 
rifle  pits  of  the  Royal  Irish,  many  of  their  rifles  being  so 
clogged  with  sand  as  to  be  useless,  were  overwhelmed  by 
the  attacking  swarms  of  Germans,  Then  came  the  turn 
of  their  machine-gun  section  which,  with  the  water  boiling 
furiously  in  the  jackets  of  the  guns,  fired  away  its  last 
rounds  of  ammunition  into  the  masses  of  the  enemy,  and 
was  then  overpowered.  Having  no  other  position  in  rear 
which  offered  any  field  of  fire,  the  main  body  of  the  Royal 
Irish  re-formed  west  of  the  northern  end  of  Bois  la  Haut, 
their  withdrawal  being  assisted  by  the  left  company  of 
the  Gordons.  Here  the  4/Middlesex  passed  through  them 
and,  taking  the  first  road  to  the  westward,  marched 
towards  Hyon  (^  mile  west  of  Bois  la  Haut)  on  their  way 
to  Nouvelles,  their  place  in  the  second  position.  The  Royal 
Irish  started  back  along  the  same  road,  but  had  not 
proceeded  far  before  they  found  the  enemy  ahead  of 
them  little  more  than  a  hundred  yards  away.  Cramped 
between  the  steep  slope  of  Bois  la  Haut  and  a  tangle  of 
buildings  on  the  other  side  of  the  road,  they  could  not 
deploy ;  the  battalion  was  obliged  to  turn  northward 
and  to  work  round  the  hill  to  its  south-eastern  angle. 
Here  the  guns  of  the  6th  Battery,  expecting  an  attack 
every  minute,  were  disposed  in  a  semi-circle,  and  the  Royal 
Irish,  together  with  a  platoon  of  the  Gordons  which  was 
acting  as  escort  to  the  battery,  entrenched  themselves 
about  the  guns,  facing  north,  west,  and  south.  The  enemy 
followed  them  up,  but,  being  in  no  great  strength,  did  not 
venture  to  attack. 

Meanwhile,  the  23rd  Battery  had  received  orders  to 
retire  from  the  summit  of  Bois  la  Haut,  and  selected  as 
its  route  a  sunken  lane  leading  due  south  into  the  main 
road  to  Hyon.  Proceeding  that  way,  the  head  of  the 
battery  had  reached  a  point  within  a  hundred  yards  of 
the  main  Hyon  road,  when  the  leading  teams  and  drivers 
were  all  shot  down  by  German  infantrymen,  who  had  come 
through  Mons  and  were  hidden  behind  a  barricade  at  right 
angles  to  the  end  of  the  lane.  The  gunners  went  forward 
to  engage  the  enemy  with  rifles,  and,  being  joined  by  the 
battery  escort  of  the  Gordon  Highlanders,  drove  the 
Germans  back  into  Hyon  with  some  loss.  The  enemy's 
barricade  was  then  occupied,  and  a  second  barricade  thrown 
up  a  little  east  of  it  ;  some  adjoining  buildings  were  placed 
in  a  state  of  defence  j   and,  while  all  ranks  gave  themselves 


SITUATION  AT  NIGHTFALL  89 

to  the  task  of  clearing  the  lane,  the  major  in  command  23  Aug. 
of  the  battery  went  off  to  find  Br.-General  Doran  (8th  i^i*- 
Brigade).  Although  the  light  had  now  begun  to  fail,  the 
23rd  Battery  was  still  in  an  unenviable  situation.  More- 
over, the  Germans  seemed  bent  upon  pinning  the  8th 
Brigade  to  its  ground ;  for  between  7  and  8  p.m.  they 
launched  a  general  attack,  without  any  preliminary  bom- 
bardment, against  the  whole  front  of  the  Gordons  and 
Royal  Scots  along  the  Harmignies — Mons  road.  The 
attenuated  line  of  the  Royal  Scots  had  since  4  p.m.  been 
reinforced  by  two  companies  of  the  Irish  Rifles  ^  from  the 
7th  Brigade,  and  the  entire  front  blazed  into  a  burst  of 
rapid  fire,  which  cut  the  Germans  down  by  scores  and 
brought  them  instantly  to  a  complete  standstill. 2  They 
then  drew  off,  and  some  of  them  assembling  about  the 
cross-roads  north-east  of  Bois  la  Haut,  they  were  dis- 
persed anew  by  the  fire  of  the  little  party  of  the  Royal 
Irish  installed  there.  Still,  the  general  situation  of  the 
8th  Brigade  was  insecure  ;  on  its  front  the  enemy,  as 
he  had  just  demonstrated,  was  in  force,  and  in  its  rear 
parties  had  penetrated  through  Mons  as  far  as  Hyon. 

To  review  the  British  line  from  the  Salient  westward,  Map  7. 
as  it  stood  at  nightfall  :  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  position 
of  the  8th  Brigade  has  just  been  described ;  it  was  the  apex 
of  the  new  front.  The  7th  and  9th  Brigades  were  en- 
trenched on  its  left  between  Nouvelles  and  Frameries  three 
miles  from  the  canal  ;  the  guns  had  been  withdrawn  from 
Erebus  to  the  vicinity  of  Frameries  for  the  night.  Of  the 
5th  Division,  on  the  left  of  the  3rd,  in  the  13th  Brigade 
the  West  Kent  were  still  in  their  position  on  the  canal, 
with  orders  to  retire  three  miles  south-east  to  Wasmes  at 
midnight.  They  had  lost  little  more  than  a  hundred 
men  ;  from  five  to  six  hundred  yards  to  their  front  the 
Brandenburg  Grenadiers,  who  had  suffered  heavy  loss,  were 
entrenched  in  the  marshv  meadows  on  the  north  bank. 
On  the  left  of  the  West  Kent,  the  K.O.S.B.  had  just  with- 
drawn their  advanced  companies  from  the  north  of  the 
canal,  and  had  repulsed,  with  great  slaughter,  an  attempt 
of  the  Germans  to  debouch  in  mass  from  a  wood  opposite 
the  left  of  their  main  line.     The  bridges  over  the  canal  on 

1  The  2/R.  Irish  Rifles  had  been  attached  about  2.30  p.m.  to  the  8th 
Brigade  and  had  relieved  the  Royal  Scots  on  Hill  93. 

2  The  75th  Regiment  lost  5  officers  and  376  men  in  this  attack.     See 
Mons,"  pp.  33,  34. 


90  MONS 

their  front  were  ready  for  demolition,  and  the  K.O.S.B.  were 
also  preparing  to  march  to  Wasmes,  some  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I. 
coming  forward  to  cover  the  movement.  There  was  no 
sign  of  pursuit  by  the  Germans,  though  even  demolished 
bridges  are  not  impassable  for  an  enterprising  infantry. 
Opposite  Les  Herbieres  the  East  Surreys  and  the  re- 
mainder of  the  14th  Brigade  had  joined,  or  were  in  the 
act  of  joining,  the  Duke  of  Cornwall's  L.I.  in  the  second 
position  south  of  the  Haine.  Here  the  enemy,  after  suffer- 
ing severely  while  passing  the  canal  from  the  machine 
guns  of  the  D. C.L.I,  and  the  Manchester,  was  firing 
away  an  immense  amount  of  ammunition  with  very  little 
result.  On  the  extreme  left,  the  19th  Brigade  was  in 
position  on  the  bank  of  the  canal. 

Thus  it  will  be  observed  that  there  was  no  uniformity 
of  movement  from  the  outpost  line  on  the  canal  to  the 
main  position  in  rear  :  the  characteristic  obstinacy  of  the 
British  infantry,  which  has  always  fought  on  without  much 
regard  to  what  was  happening  in  other  parts  of  the  field, 
was  thus  early  made  manifest,  in  spite  of  the  efforts  of 
the  Staff  to  co-ordinate  the  withdrawal.  The  13th  Brigade 
did  not  attempt  to  retire  until  night,  though  the  brigades 
to  the  right  and  left  of  it  had  fallen  back  in  the  afternoon. 
The  19th  Brigade  also  stood  fast.  As  a  result  of  the 
retirement  of  the  two  divisions  from  the  outpost  line  on 
the  canal  to  the  position  south  of  Mons,  the  left  of  the  3rd 
Division  remained  as  heretofore  on  the  road  between 
Frameries  and  Cuesmes,  but  the  right  of  the  5th  Division 
extended  no  further  than  to  the  road  from  Quaregnon  to 
Paturages  ;  between  the  inner  flanks  of  the  divisions  there 
was  a  gap,  almost  entirely  covered  by  houses,  of  some  two 
miles.  This  gap  had  been  foreseen  by  II.  Corps  head- 
quarters, and  more  than  one  message  passed  early  in  the 
afternoon  between  General  Smith-Dorrien  and  G.H.Q,  and 
the  Staff  of  the  I.  Corps  with  reference  to  using  the  5th 
Brigade  (Br.-General  R.  C.  B.  Haking)  to  fill  it,  as  this 
brigade  was  close  at  hand  in  reserve  near  Genly,  in  rear  of 
Frameries.  As  a  first  measure,  General  Smith-Dorrien 
ordered  the  1 /Bedford  from  the  15th  Brigade  to  Paturages, 
and,  later  on,  three  battalions  of  the  5th  Brigade  arrived 
from  the  I.  Corps,  in  compliance  with  his  request.  Two 
battalions  of  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  had  moved  up  late 
in  the  evening  to  Hill  93,  and  were  in  touch  with  the  Royal 
Scots,  thus  completing  the  junction  between  the  I.  and  II. 
Corps. 


SITUATION  AT  NIGHTFALL  91 

The  only  thing  which  still  remained  in  doubt  was  the  23  Aug. 
fate  of  part  of  the  8th  Brigade  and  the  artillery  with  it.  i^^** 
At  9  P.M.  orders  were  issued  by  Br.-General  Doran  to  fall 
back  to  the  new  position  at  Nouvelles.  The  party  of  the 
Royal  Irish  at  the  cross-roads,  having  clung  to  their  little 
stronghold  till  10  p.m.,  joined  the  Gordons,  bringing  with 
them  one  of  the  battalion  machine  guns,  which  had  been 
repaired  from  the  wreck  of  the  other.  The  6th  Battery 
guns  were  man-handled  to  the  foot  of  Bois  la  Haut,  where 
the  teams  were  hooked  in.  These  guns  and  the  Royal 
Irish  were  the  first  to  move  off,  about  11  p.m.  Meanwhile 
the  23rd  Battery  had  been  working  hard  to  clear  the  lane 
and  extricate  its  guns.  Interference  by  a  strong  German 
patrol  soon  after  dark  was  stopped  without  serious  diffi- 
culty, and  by  10  p.m.  the  road  was  free  and  the  battery 
ready  to  march.  Shortly  afterwards  the  battery  com- 
mander returned,  having  walked  through  some  German 
troops,  and  by  his  orders,  shortly  before  midnight,  the 
battery  drove  off  as  noiselessly  as  possible — the  Germans 
being  within  three  hundred  yards  of  it — eastward  to  the 
Beaumont  road  and  thence,  by  Spiennes,  to  Nouvelles. 
Then  the  Gordon  Highlanders  marched  off,  the  Royal  Scots 
opening  fire  to  drown  the  tramp  of  men  and  the  clatter  of 
vehicles.  Finally  the  Royal  Scots  withdrew,  company  by 
company,  and  before  3  a.m.  on  the  24th  the  whole  of  the 
8th  Brigade,  together  with  the  three  batteries  attached  to 
it,  was  safe  in  Nouvelles.  The  two  Guards  battalions  and 
the  Royal  Irish  Rifles  left  Hill  93  shortly  after  2  a.m. 

Altogether,  the  British  commanders  were  not  ill- 
satisfied  with  the  day's  work.  The  unsatisfactory  position 
on  the  canal  had  been  imposed  upon  them  fortuitously  ; 
but  it  had  been  held  for  a  sufficient  time,  and  had  been 
evacuated,  without  great  difficulty  or  disaster,  in  favour 
of  a  second  position  only  a  mile  or  two  in  rear.  The  men, 
too,  were  in  high  spirits,  for  they  had  met  superior  numbers 
of  the  most  highly  renowned  army  in  the  world  and  had 
given  a  good  account  of  themselves.^  The  total  casualties 
amounted  to  just  over  sixteen  hundred  of  all  ranks,  killed, 
wounded  and  missing.  The  whole  of  these,  except  forty, 
were  sustained  by  the  II.  Corps,  and  practically  half  of 
them  by  two  battalions  of  the  8th  Brigade  in  the  Salient. ^ 

^  It  may  be  of  interest  to  note  that  the  strength  of  the  3rd  and  5th 
Divisions,  those  principally  engaged  at  Mons,  was  just  under  36,000  ; 
the  strength  of  the  British  Army  at  the  battle  of  VVaterioo  was  31,585 
(Wellington  Despatches,  xii.  pp.  485-7). 

*  The  4/Middlesex  had  lost  over  400  and  the  2/Royal  Irish  over  300. 


92  MONS 

The  only  loss  of  artillery  was  that  of  two  guns  of  the  120th 
Battery,  which  could  not  be  removed  from  their  exposed 
position  on  the  canal  at  St.  Ghislain. 

The  general  result  of  the  action  was  that  the  German 
advance  was  delayed  a  whole  day.  Kluck's  orders  for 
the  23rd  August  had  directed  the  ///.  and  IV.  Corps  to 
"  occupy  the  rising  ground  on  the  southern  side  of  the 
canal,"  whilst  the  IX.  Corps  was  to  advance  via  Mons  to 
the  north  and  north-western  front  of  Maubeuge.  The 
positions  prescribed  for  the  23rd  were  actually  the  limits 
of  advance  on  the  24th.^  Judged  by  the  units  whose 
casualties  are  now  known,  the  enemy  losses  must  have 
been  very  heavy.  And  this  is  confirmed  by  the  behaviour 
of  the  Germans  as  it  grew  dusk.  The  success  in  the 
Salient  against  the  8th  Brigade  was  not  exploited.  Nor 
did  any  enemy  appear  elsewhere  to  take  advantage  of  the 
gaps  in  the  British  line  or  to  embarrass  the  retirement. 
As  at  the  close  of  a  manoeuvre  day,  German  bugles,  to  the 
astonishment  of  the  British  troops  near  the  canal,  were 
heard  to  sound  the  "  Cease  fire,"  repeating  it  along  the 
line  unit  by  unit,  and  then,  after  some  little  singing  at  one 
place,  all  was  quiet.  But  the  enemy  showed  his  nervous- 
ness and  fear  of  a  night  attack  by  the  constant  discharge 
of  illuminating  flares,  which  the  British  soldier  then  saw 
for  the  first  time. 

There  was  no  real  anxiety  at  G.H.Q.,  therefore,  except 
as  regards  events  in  the  French  Fifth  Army  further  east. 
During  the  day  the  Flying  Corps  had  reported  fighting 
about  Charleroi,  two  powerful  German  columns  moving 
south-westward  from  Charleroi  and  from  Luttre,  and  a 
heavy  engagement  at  Thuin,  the  left  of  the  French  Fifth 
Army. 2     A  report  which  came  to  hand  soon  after  5  p.m. 

1  See  Note  at  end  of  Chapter. 

2  The  following  message  was  dictated  by  Sir  John  French  to  Colonel 
G.  M.  W.  Macdonogh  and  telephoned  by  the  latter  at  3.10  p.m.  to  Lieutenant 
Spears  (liaison  officer)  at  Philippeville  for  communication  to  General  Lan- 
rezac,  in  reply  to  the  latter's  enquiry  for  information  as  to  the  British  action  : 

"  I  am  waiting  for  the  dispositions  arranged  for  to  be  carried  out, 
"  especially  the  posting  of  French  cavalry  corps  on  my  left. 

"  I  am  prepared  to  fulfil  the  role  allotted  to  me  when  the  Fifth  Army 
"  advances  to  the  attack.  In  the  meantime  I  hold  an  advanced  defensive 
"  position  extending  from  Cond6  on  the  left  through  Mons  to  Erquelines, 
"  where  I  connect  with  the  two  Reserve  divisions  south  of  the  Sambre. 

"  I  am  now  much  in  advance  of  the  line  held  by  the  Fifth  Army,  and 
"  feel  my  position  to  be  as  forward  as  circumstances  will  allow,  particularly 
*'  in  view  of  the  fact  that  I  am  not  properly  prepared  to  take  offensive 
"  action  till  to-morrow  morning,  as  I  have  previously  informed  you. 

"  I  do  not  understand  from  your  wire  that  the  XVIII.  Corps  has  as 
"  yet  been  engaged  and  they  stand  on  my  inner  flank." 


SITUATION  AT  NIGHTFALL  93 

stated  that  Tournai  appeared  to  be  in  the  enemy's  hands,  23  Aug. 
and  that  a  long  column  of  all  arms  was  moving  southward  ^^i*- 
through  Ladeuze  (13  miles  west  of  Soignies),  Grosage  and 
Neufmaison  towards  Ville  Pommeroeul.^  The  conclusion 
to  which  this  intelligence  tended  was,  that  the  enemy  would 
probably  continue  to  develop  his  attack  during  the  night 
and  upon  the  following  day.  At  8.40  p.m.  this  conclusion 
was  embodied  in  a  message  from  Sir  John  French  to  the 
II.  Corps  :  "  I  will  stand  the  attack  on  the  ground  now 
"  occupied  by  the  troops.  You  will  therefore  strengthen 
"  your  position  by  every  possible  means  during  the  night." 

Further  information,  however,  which  arrived  from 
French  Fifth  Army  Headquarters  during  the  evening  and 
just  before  midnight — when  Lieutenant  Spears  brought  the 
news  that  General  Lanrezac  had  decided  to  order  a  retreat 
to  begin  at  3  a.m.  next  morning — led  the  British  Com- 
mander-in-Chief to  decide  that  his  position  in  advance  of 
the  general  line  was  strategically  untenable,  and  that  an 
immediate  retirement  was  necessary.  He  thereby  escaped, 
to  use  the  enemy's  words,  a  "  veritable  wasps'  nest  "  ^ 
and  his  action  fell  in  with  the  wishes  of  General  Joffre, 
official  notification  of  which  reached  him  next  day  shortly 
after  1  p.m.  in  two  messages. 

The  first  message  was  to  the  effect  that  the  French 
commander  had  decided  that  his  Fifth  Army  should  man- 
oeuvre in  retreat  and  rest  its  left  on  the  fortress  of  Mau- 
beuge,  and  its  right  on  the  wooded  massif  of  the  Ardennes, 
remaining  in  liaison  with  the  British  Expeditionary  Force 
by  means  of  cavalry.  The  second  pointed  out  the  desira- 
bility of  delaying  the  advance  of  the  enemy  between 
Maubeuge — Valenciennes,  and  gave  Cambrai  as  the  general 
direction  of  retirement  for  the  British  if  the  enemy  should 
appear  in  superior  force,  with  their  right  on  Le  Cateau, 
and  their  left  on  the  water  line  Denain — Bouchain — Arleux. 
G.H.Q.  informed  General  Joffre  that  the  British  Force 
was  falling  back  slowly  to  the  position  Maubeuge — Valen- 
ciennes, and  that,  if  driven  from  this,  it  would  act  in 
accordance  with  his  wishes. 

The  reason  for  these  messages  was  sufficiently  cogent. 
As  a  result  of  his  operations  on  the  23rd,  General  de  Langle 
de  Cary  had  ordered  a  general  retirement  of  the  French 
Fourth  Army  on  the  24th  to  the  line  Montmedy — Sedan — 
Mezieres,  that  is,  the  line  of  the  Chiers  and  Meuse.  In 
consequence  of  the  failure  of  the  Fourth  Army  to  get 
^  The  German  IV.  Corps.  *  Lieut.-General  von  Zwelil. 


94  MONS 

forward,  General  Lanrezae's  right  flank  on  the  Meuse  was 
not  only  exposed  to  attack,  but  his  right  rear  was  actually 
attacked  by  the  German  Third  Army  from  the  east,  whilst 
the  German  Second  Army  advanced  against  his  main  force 
near  Charleroi  from  the  north.  On  the  night  of  the 
23rd/24th,  therefore,  General  Lanrezac  ordered  the  French 
Fifth  Army  to  commence  retiring  before  daybreak  south 
of  the  general  line  Givet — Philippe ville — Beaumont — Mau- 
beuge,  with  its  left,  the  XVIII.  Corps,  about  Solre  le 
Chateau,  22  miles  south-east  of  Mons.  General  Vala- 
bregue,  hearing  of  the  attack  on  the  XVIII.  Corps  near 
Thuin  on  the  23rd,  had  assembled  his  Reserve  divisions 
that  night  near  Cousolre,  10  miles  due  east  of  Maubeuge. 
There  w^as  therefore  not  only  a  considerable  gap  between 
the  Allied  forces,  but  the  French  were  preparing  a  retire- 
ment which  might  increase  it. 


NOTE 
The  German  Account  of  Mons 

The  monograph   "  Die   Schlacht  bei  Mons,"   published  by  the 

German  General  Staff  at  the  end  of  1919,  gives  a  very  clear  account 

of  the  fight,  with  excellent  maps  showing  the  attacks  of  the  different 

Sketches  corps.     According  to  this,  3 J  divisions  (the  17th,  18th,  6th  and  part 

4  &  5.      of  oih)  of  the  First  Army  attacked  the  British  3rd  Division,  and  2i 

Map  5.     (part  of  5th,  the  7th  and  8th)  the  British  5th  Division. 

The  IX.  Corps  {17th  and  18th  Divisions)  attacked  south-west 
towards  Mons  on  the  front  Villers  Ghislain — Nimy.  On  its  right 
came  the  ///.  Corps  (6th  and  5th  Divisions)  against  Jemappes  and 
Les  Herbieres  and,  further  west,  as  far  as  Lock  No.  5,  the  IV.  Corps 
{7th  and  8th  Divisions).  At  nightfall  the  VII.  Corps  of  the  Second 
Army,  on  the  left  of  the  IX.,  had  got  no  further  than  Binche,  and  the 
//.  Corps,  on  the  right  of  the  IV.,  was  some  15  miles  north  of  Conde, 
still  marching  southwards  heading  for  that  town,  with  the  //.  Cavalry 
Corps  on  its  right  facing  westwards  towards  Tourcoing — Roubaix — ■ 
Lille. 

It  was  part  of  the  17th  Division  artillery  (six  batteries)  behind 
Villers  Ghislain,  and  possibly  some  of  the  VII.  Corps  artillery, 
covered  by  the  16th  Dragoons  and  a  Fusilier  battalion,  which  fired 
on  the  I.  Corps  as  related  in  the  narrative. 

The  German  account  is  frank  enough  ;  it  states  :  "Well  en- 
trenched and  completely  hidden,  the  enemy  opened  a  murderous 
fire  .  .  .  the  casualties  increased  .  .  .  the  rushes  became  shorter, 
"  and  finally  the  whole  advance  stopped  .  .  .  with  bloody  losses, 
"  the  attack  gradually  came  to  an  end."  As  soon  as  it  got  dark  the 
Germans  gladly  stopped. 

In  the  17th  Division  the  75th  {Bremen)  Regiment  lost  5  officers 
and  376  men  in  one  attack.  This  division  made  no  attempt  to 
advance  after  dusk  fell. 


t( 


GERMAN  ACCOUNT 


95 


In  the  18th  Division  at  the  beginning  of  darkness  the  brigades 
dug  in  on  the  Hne  which  they  had  reached,  and  bivouacked. 

The  6th  Division  got  across  the  canal,  but  towards  7  p.m.  all 
attempts  to  advance  failed,  and  the  division  Avent  into  bivouac. 
"  Fighting  posts,  pushed  a  few  hundred  yards  out,  protected  the 
"  tired  troops." 

The  5th  Division  failed  to  get  across  the  canal.  One  of  its  regi- 
ments, the  12th  Brandenburg  Grenadiers,  whose  attack  on  the  West 
Kent  has  been  referred  to,  had  lost  "  25  officers  and  far  more  than 
"  500  N.C.O.'s  and  men,"  when  "  the  summer  night  settled  on  the 
"  blood-stained  battle-field  and  with  its  shade  gave  a  protecting 
"  curtain  against  the  hostile  fire."  It  was  this  division  whose  singing 
was  heard  :  to  cheer  themselves,  the  men  sang  "  Deutschland  iiber 
"  alles." 

The  IV.  Corps  did  not  cross  the  canal  during  the  battle.  Some 
patrols  managed  to  get  over  after  midnight,  but  "  up  to  9  p.m.  the 
"  enemy  fire  was  as  strong  as  ever." 

Kluck,  according  to  the  General  Staff  account,  "  after  the  stub- 
"  born  defence  of  the  enemy,  especially  opposite  the  ///.  Corps, 
"  expected  that  the  British  would  offer  energetic  resistance  again 
"  next  day  on  the  high  ground  south  of  Mons.  He  therefore  resolved 
"  to  continue  the  attack  next  day  enveloping  the  left  flank,  with  the 
"  intention  of  cutting  off  the  enemy's  retreat  to  the  west.'''  ^  The 
//.  Cavalry  Corps  was  ordered  south  to  assist.  Kluck,  in  his  version 
of  his  orders,  adds  "  The  attack  will  be  so  directed  as  to  force  the 
"  enemy  into  Maubeuge." 

The  German  Official  Account  of  the  battle  ends  with  the  words  : — 

"  A  decision  had  seemingly  not  been  obtained.  Only  the  en- 
"  velopment  of  the  British  by  the  right  wing  of  the  Armies  could 
"  lead  to  this.  Whether  the  German  leaders  could  manage  to  carry 
"  out  this  manoeuvre,  in  time,  against  the  left  wing  and  left  flank 
"  of  the  British  was  now  of  vital  importance  for  the  result  of  the 
"  great  battle,  not  only  to  the  First  Army,  but  to  the  whole  German 
"  front." 

The  attempt  was  to  fail  on  the  24th,  and  fail  again  on  the  26th 
at  Le  Cateau,  and  the  final  result  was  to  be  the  envelopment  of  the 
German  right  itself  by  the  Allied  left  wing.^ 


^  Kuhl's  "Marne,"  p.  70,  confirms  this. 

2  It  may  be  recalled  that  on  this  day,  the  23rd  August,  began  the 
battle  of  Tannenberg,  which  ended  on  the  31st  with  the  complete  defeat 
of  the  Russian  Second  Army  (General  Samsonov) ;  also  the  battle  of 
Krasnic,  the  first  of  the  encounters  of  the  long  struggle  in  Galicia  between 
the  Russian  Armies  of  the  South- West  front  and  the  Austro-Hungarians, 
which  ended  on  the  11th  September  with  the  retreat  of  the  latter. 


CHAPTER  IV 


THE  RETREAT  FROM  MONS  AND  ACTION  OF  ELOUGES 


24th  August 


(Sketches  A  &  4  ;  Maps  2,  3,  5,  6,  7,  8  &  13) 

Sketches  The  night  of  the  23rd/24th  August  passed  without  serious 
A  &  4.  disturbance  of  any  kind  from  the  enemy  ;  and  at  dawn  on 
the  24th  the  Army  occupied  a  Hne  facing  roughly  north- 
east, seventeen  miles  long,  with  the  centre  some  three 
miles  south  of  Mons.  The  positions  from  right  to  left 
were  : — 


Maps  6 

&7. 


I.  Corps  : 

1st  Division 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade 

2nd  Division  : 

6th  Brigade . 

4th      do.      . 

5th      do.      . 

2/Connaught  Rangers 

II.  Corps  : 

3rd  Division  : 

8th  Brigade . 

7th      do.      . 

9th      do.      . 
5th  Division  : 

l/Bedford  (loth  Bde.) 

13th  Brigade 

1/Dorset  (15th  Bde.) 

14th  Brigade 

15th      do. 

(less  two  battalions) 
19th  Brigade    . 
Cavalry  Division     . 


/ 


Grand  Reng,  Rouveroy,  Givry. 
Givry. 

Harmignies. 
Harveng. 
Paturages. 
Bougnies. 


Nouvelles. 

Ciply. 

Frameries. 

Paturages. 

Wasmes. 

Hornu — Bois  de  Boussu. 


.    Champ  des  Sarts- 
.  fThulin,    Elouges, 
.  \     Quievrain. 
96 


-Hornu. 
Audregnies, 


RETREAT  OF  THE  I.  CORPS  Q7 

The  bulk  of  the  Army  had  been  subjected  to  great  24  Aug. 
fatigue.  The  1st  Division,  though  scarcely  engaged,  had  ^^^^• 
been  hurried  into  its  place  by  a  forced  march  during  the 
night  of  the  22nd/23rd  and  had  been  under  arms  for 
eighteen  hours  before  it  could  billet  or  bivouac.  Of  the 
II.  Corps,  the  8th  Brigade  had  been  fighting  all  day,  and  the 
greater  part  of  it  obtained  no  rest  until  the  early  morning 
of  the  24th.  The  9th  Brigade  did  not  get  into  billets  at 
Frameries  until  late.  The  13th  Brigade  did  not  reach  its 
assigned  position  much  before  daylight  on  the  24th,  and 
the  14th  Brigade  was  little  earlier.  The  15th  Brigade 
fared  better,  though  it  did  not  settle  down  until  midnight. 
The  19th  Brigade  had  only  just  left  the  train  at  Valen- 
ciennes, when  it  was  hurried  up  to  take  over  a  sector  of 
the  outpost  line.  Altogether,  the  circumstances  were  very 
trying  for  the  reservists,  who  formed  60  per  cent,  of  the 
infantry,  and  were  for  the  most  part  still  out  of  con- 
dition. 

Shortly  after  11  p.m.  on  the  23rd  the  senior  General  Staff  Map  3, 
officers  of  the  I.  and  II.  Corps  and  of  the  Cavalry  Division 
had  been  summoned,  in  view  of  a  possible  retirement,  to 
G.H.Q.  at  Le  Cateau.  There  about  1  a.m.  the  Chief  of 
the  General  Staff  explained  to  them  that  it  was  the  in- 
tention of  Sir  John  French  to  make  a  general  retreat  south- 
wards of  about  eight  miles  to  an  east  and  west  line,  pre- 
viously reconnoitred,  from  La  Longueville  (five  miles  west 
of  Maubeuge)  westward  through  Bavai  and  four  miles 
bej^ond  it  to  the  hamlet  of  La  Boiserette,^  a  front  of 
about  seven  miles.  He  instructed  the  General  Staff 
officers  that  the  corps  were  to  retire  in  mutual  co-operation, 
the  actual  order  of  retirement  to  be  settled  by  the  two 
corps  commanders  in  consultation.  Br.-General  Forestier- 
Walker  left  immediately  by  motor  car,  as  telegraphic  com- 
munication between  G.H.Q.  and  II.  Corps  headquarters, 
thirty-five  miles  off,  was  interrupted ;  but  Br.-General 
J.  E.  Gough  was  able  to  send  off  a  message,  which  reached 
General  Haig  about  2  a.m.,  with  the  additional  informa- 
tion that  the  I.  Corps  was  to  cover  the  retirement  of 
the  II.,  the  cavalry  simultaneously  making  a  demonstra- 
tion, and  that  the  roads  through  Maubeuge  were  not  open 
to  the  British.  G.H.Q.  further  suggested  that  the  left  of 
the  I.  Corps  should  receive  particular  attention,  and  that 
the  line  from  Bonnet  (six  miles  north  of  Maubeuge)  west- 
wards to  Blaregnies  should  be  firmly  established  before  the 
^  Misspelt  La  Bois  Crette  on  some  maps. 

VOL.  I  H 


98  MONS 

II.  Corps  was  withdrawn.  Actually,  it  was  nearly  midday 
on  the  24th  before  the  corps  commanders  found  opportunity 
to  meet  and  arrange  how  these  suggestions  should  be  put 
into  practice.^ 
Map  6.  To  carry  out  G.H.Q.  orders  the  I.  Corps  detailed  a 
special  rear  guard,  composed  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade, 
J  Battery,  the  XXXVI.  and  XLI.  Brigades  R.F.A.,  and 
the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  (Br.-General  R.  Scott-Kerr), 
under  the  command  of  Br.-General  H.  S.  Home,  R.A.,  of 
the  corps  staff.  It  was  to  concentrate  at  Bonnet  and 
make  an  offensive  demonstration  at  daybreak,  so  as  to 
delay  the  enemy's  leading  troops  whilst  the  1st  and  2nd 
Divisions  fell  back. 

To  save  time.  General  Haig  motored  to  1st  and  2nd 
Division  headquarters  and  in  person  issued  orders  for 
them  to  retire  by  two  roads  on  Feignies  and  Bavai.  The 
main  body  of  the  1st  Division  marched  off  at  4  a.m.,  un- 
molested, except  by  a  little  ineffective  shelling,  and  by  a 
few  small  bodies  of  cavalry,  which  were  roughly  handled 
and  dispersed  by  infantry  and  artillery  fire.  The  2nd 
Division  followed  at  4.45  a.m.  and  was  equally  undisturbed. 
Even  the  rear  guard  was  not  really  troubled  :  ^  the  4th 
(Guards)  Brigade  retired  by  successive  echelons  from 
Harveng  and  Bougnies  to  a  position  two  miles  back  be- 
tween Quevy  le  Petit  and  Genly,  pursued  only  by  heavy 
but  innocuous  bursts  of  shrapnel.  The  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  covered  the  ground  on  the  left  of  the  Guards 
from  Vellereille  le  Sec  westward,  through  Harmignies 
and  Nouvelles,  to  Ciply,  under  similar  ineffective  shell- 
ing. There  was  no  real  pressure  from  the  enemy  on  the 
rear  guard. 

The  main  bodies  of  the  divisions  reached  their  destina- 
tions at  Feignies,  La  Longueville  and  Bavai  between  9 
and  10  P.M.,  with  no  further  mishap  than  the  loss  of  tools 
and  other  articles  which  had  been  unloaded  by  the  regi- 
mental transport  and  could  not  be  re-loaded  in  time.  None 
the  less,  the  men  were  extremely  fatigued  ;  they  had  had 
little  rest  for  over  sixty  hours  ;  the  country  was  close  and 
cramped,  and  the  day  had  been  exceedingly  hot  ;  there  had 
been  constant  deployments  and  much  labour  on  entrench- 
ing— inseparable  from  a  retreat — so  that  the  men  suffered 

1  They  met  at  the  cross-roads  near  Bonnet,  Sir  John  French  being 
there  with  Genera!  Haig  at  the  time. 

"^  As  will  be  seen  in  the  account  of  the  German  operations  on  the  24th, 
no  orders  were  issued  for  pursuit  in  this  part  of  the  field  till  8  a.m. 


RETREAT  OF  THE  II.  CORPS  99 

greatly  from  weariness  and  want  of  sleep.     Yet  one  bat-  24  Aug. 

talion  commander  records  on  this  date  :   "  We  had  marched    ^^i'*- 

"  59  miles  in  the  last  64  hours,  beginning  the  march  in 

"  the  middle  of  an  entirely  sleepless  night  and  getting  only 

"  8  hours  altogether  during  the  other  two  nights.     Many 

"  men  could  hardly  put  one  leg  before  another,  yet  they  all 

"  marched  in  singing.     The  other  battalions  of  the  brigade 

"  did  not  arrive  till  long  after  dark,  but  they  also  marched 

"  in  singing." 

The  comparative  ease  with  which  the  I.  Corps  was  able  Maps  3,  g, 
to  withdraw  was  far  from  reassuring,  for  it  might  indicate  ^  '^• 
that  the  Germans  intended  to  make  a  decisive  turning 
effort  further  west,  as,  indeed,  was  their  plan.  Soon  after 
6  A.M.  an  aeroplane,  which  had  been  sent  out  at  dawn, 
brought  information  not  calculated  to  diminish  the  anxiety 
of  the  Commander-in-Chief :  a  column,  from  five  to  ten 
miles  long,  had  been  seen  at  4.30  a.m.  moving  south  from 
Leuze  towards  Peruwelz,  having  changed  direction,  at 
Leuze,  off  the  road  that  runs  westward  from  Ath  to 
Tournai.  This  could  hardly  mean  anything  less  than  a 
German  division, ^  and  its  line  of  march  from  Peruwelz  to 
Conde  would  carry  it  to  the  west  of  the  extreme  western 
flank  of  the  British  Army.  Nothing,  however,  was  known 
of  this  at  4  a.m.  at  the  commencement  of  the  British 
retreat,  and  the  first  movements  of  the  II.  Corps  were 
naturally  made  in  complete  ignorance  of  it.  General 
Smith-Dorrien,  in  pursuance  of  the  Commander-in-Chief's 
original  orders,  had  made  his  dispositions  before  dawn  to 
withstand  another  German  attack  on  the  ground  on  which 
his  corps  had  spent  the  night.  These  dispositions  proved 
of  advantage  for  gaining  time  when  the  instructions  to 
retire  arrived  ;  for,  before  the  II.  Corps  could  retreat,  it 
was  imperative  that  the  roads  should  be  cleared  of  all 
transport  and  impedimenta,  and  the  orders  to  that  effect 
did  not  filter  down  to  the  brigades  of  the  3rd  Division 
before  4.30  a.m.  Meanwhile,  before  dawn,  the  Germans 
had  already  opened  a  heavy  bombardment  against  the 
right  of  the  II.  Corps  ;  within  an  hour  the  fire  extended 
westwards  along  the  whole  length  of  the  line,  and  by 
5.15  a.m.  a  general  infantry  attack  was  rapidly  developing. 
At  5.30  A.M.  the  commander  of  the  3rd  Division  became 
aware  that  the  main  body  of  the  I.  Corps  was  retiring,  and 
sent  a  staff  officer  to  reconnoitre  a  second  position  further 
to  the  south.  Half  an  hour  later  he  despatched  orders  to 
1  It  was  the  II.  Corps  (see  "  Mons,"  Sketch  2). 


100  MONS 

the  8th  Brigade,  the  right  of  his  line,  to  withdraw  from 
Nouvelles.^ 

Beyond  the  shelhng,  which  did  no  damage,  the  8th 
Brigade  had  been  Httle  troubled  ;  the  German  infantry 
did  not  show  itself  at  all  ;  and  at  8  a.m.  the  brigade  began 
its  march  southward  upon  Genly.  The  7th  Brigade  about 
Ciply,  and  the  9th  Brigade  at  Frameries,  when  they  began 
to  move  in  their  turn,  did  not  escape  quite  so  easily.  The 
Germans  were  evidently  bent  upon  holding  them  to  their 
ground  for  a  time,  and  about  6  a.m.  launched  their  infantry 
in  dense  waves  to  the  attack.  They  were  thrown  back  with 
heavy  loss,  the  109th  Battery  finding  excellent  targets  in 
the  masses  of  the  enemy  visible  behind  the  front  line. 
Having  thus  cleared  the  air,  about  9  a.m.  the  9th  Brigade 
fell  back,  in  perfect  order,  through  the  town  of  Frameries, 
where  there  was  some  sharp  fighting  before  the  troops  got 
clear  of  the  streets,  and  marched  southward  upon  Sars  la 
Bruyere.  The  7th  Brigade  held  on  for  a  little  longer,  and 
the  South  Lancashire  were  enfiladed  by  machine  guns  from 
the  slag-heaps  about  Frameries,  and  lost  between  two  and 
three   hundred   men   before   this   brigade   also   was   with- 

^  The  following  message  from  the  II.  Corps  to  the  5th  Division  gives  a 
good  idea  of  the  situation  about  7  a.m.  : 

To  5th  Division.  From  II.  Corps. 

G.  313.  24th  [August  1914]. 

First  Corps  are  retiring  from  the  line  Peissant — Haulchin — Har- 
mignies  to  positions  at  Villers  Sire  Nicole  and  Quevy  le  Petit  aaa  Sixth 
Infantry  Brigade  moving  to  position  about  cross  roads  one  mile  west  of 
Harveng  aaa  All  these  positions  are  to  cover  retirement  of  Third  Division 
when  that  becomes  necessary  aaa  Fifth  Cavalry  Brigade  to  Harveng 
with  detachment  and  battery  at  Harmignies  aaa  Third  Division  right 
flank  will  probably  fall  back  to  Harveng  early  aaa  When  Third  Division 
is  forced  to  retire  or  ordered  to  retire  it  will  take  up  position  about  Sars  la 
Bruyere  aaa  Your  retirement  will  have  to  be  more  or  less  simultaneous 
and  you  should  at  once  send  to  reconnoitre  a  position  if  possible  about 
Blaugies  and  Montignies  sur  Roc  or  where  you  can  find  it  aaa  Your  roads 
of  retirement  will  be  those  described  to  Colonel  Romer  [General  Staff  of 
5th  Division]  and  in  addition  that  through  Blaugies  and  Erquennes  to 
Hergies  but  not  through  second  I  of  Pissotiau  [that  is  west  of  the  Blaugies 
— Erquennes — Hergies  road]  which  belongs  to  Third  Division  aaa  If 
you  feel  yourself  sufficiently  strong  where  you  are  you  might  send  a  brigade 
or  less  back  to  your  next  position  to  prepare  it  aaa  We  cannot  tell  when 
Third  Division  will  have  to  retire  to  Sars  la  Bruyere  but  hope  that  it  will 
at  least  not  be  for  two  or  three  hours. 

G.  F.  W.  [Forestier-Walker], 
B.G. 

7.15  A.M. 

Copy  handed  to  Col.  Maurice  [G.S.  3rd  Division]. 
One  by  tel. 
One  by  officer. 


RETREAT  OF  THE  11.  CORPS  101 

drawn  towards  Genly.     The  Germans  made  no  attempt  2-1  Aug. 
to  press  them  ;    indeed,  they  handled  the  3rd  Division  on    i^^"*- 
this  day  with  singular  respect.     The  division  had,  in  fact, 
though  it  was  not  appreciated  at  the  time,  inflicted  on 
them  very  heavy  losses. 

It  was  in  the  section  immediately  to  the  west  of  Maps  6 
Frameries  that  serious  fighting  was  first  experienced.  The  ^  '^* 
right  of  the  5th  Division  at  Paturages,  in  the  midst  of  the 
sea  of  mining  cottages,  was  held  by  three  battalions  of  the 
5th  Brigade,  and  one,  the  Bedfordshire,  of  the  15th.  The 
German  guns  opened  a  bombardment  before  dawn,  and 
continued  it  steadily  for  some  four  hours,  though  to  little 
purpose.  The  enemy  infantry  meanwhile  fell  upon  a  com- 
pany of  the  Bedfordshire  near  Paturages,  and  a  very  lively 
fight  followed  without  definite  result.  Meanwhile,  further 
to  the  west,  the  Dorsetshire  (15th  Brigade,  but  detached 
with  the  13th)  were  well  entrenched  along  the  railway  to 
the  north-west  of  Wasmes,  with  two  guns  of  the  121st 
Battery  dug  in  near  their  extreme  left.^  Still  further  to 
the  left,  in  the  13th  Brigade,  the  2/K.O.Y.L.I.  was  coming 
into  position  with  the  37th  Howitzer  Battery  level  with  it. 
The  2/Duke  of  Wellington's,  which  was  shortly  to  relieve 
the  1 /Dorset,  and  the  1/R.  West  Kent  were  in  Wasmes  ; 
the  2/K.O.S.B.  was  on  the  left  at  Champ  des  Sarts.  The 
1 /Norfolk  and  1 /Cheshire  of  the  15th  Infantry  Brigade, 
together  with  the  119th  Battery,  were  ordered  to  Dour 
(two  miles  south-west)  as  divisional  reserve.  The  XXVII. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  (less  the  119th  Battery)  was  about  Champ 
des  Sarts  ;  the  VIII.  Howitzer  Brigade  (less  the  37th 
Battery)  to  the  right  and  in  advance  of  it  ;  and  the 
XXVIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  was  to  the  left  of  it,  to  the  north 
of  Dour. 

In  this  sector  of  the  line  the  enemy  began  operations 
at  dawn  by  bombarding  the  northern  edge  of  St.  Ghislain 
for  two  hours,  after  which  he  pushed  his  patrols  forward 
and  ascertained  that  the  place  had  been  evacuated  by  the 
British. 2  The  infantry  ^  then  crossed  the  canal  by  some 
of  the  foot-bridges  still  left  standing,  and  a  battalion  and 
a  half,  hastening  through  the  deserted  streets,  deployed 

^  The  trenches  alongside  them  were  never  occupied,  so  that  the  guns 
were  completely  eti  Vair. 

"  Writing  of  the  advance  through  St,  Ghislain  on  the  24th,  Hauptmann 
Bloem  (p.  153)  writes  :  "  Truly,  our  artillery  shot  famously  this  night  and 
this  morning  "  ;  and  he  says  that  the  town  looked  "  as  if  it  had  been 
visited  by  a  whirlwind." 

*  5th  Division. 


102  MONS 

from  the  southern  edge  of  Hornu,  the  next  village,  opposite 
Champ  des  Sarts.  The  two  advanced  guns  of  the  121st 
Battery,  which  had  opened  fire,  were  quickly  compelled 
to  retire  by  the  enemy's  machine  guns  ;  but  the  Dorset 
and  the  37th  Battery  brought  the  German  advance  to  an 
abrupt  standstill  with  considerable  loss. 

At  9  A.M.  the  three  battalions  of  the  5th  Brigade  on 
the  right  of  the  5th  Division  at  Paturages,  in  accordance 
with  their  orders  from  the  I.  Corps,  began  to  withdraw 
by  Culot  and  Eugies  southward  upon  Sars  la  Bruyere. 
Roused  at  4  a.m.  the  Worcestershire  and  the  H.L.I,  had 
dug  in  on  the  front  line,  whilst  the  Oxfordshire  L.I.  en- 
trenched a  position  in  rear  to  cover  retirement.  Though 
under  shell  fire  no  German  infantry  had  attempted  to  close 
with  them,  but  their  retirement  at  once  brought  trouble  upon 
the  denuded  right  flank  of  the  5th  Division,  where  stood  the 
Bedfordshire.  A  detachment  of  the  Dorset  filled  the  vacant 
place  for  the  moment,  and  the  resistance  was  for  the  time 
maintained  ;  for  the  Germans  were  evidently  less  con- 
cerned to  drive  the  British  back  than  to  hold  them  to  their 
ground. 

None  the  less,  they  were  not  content  to  be  checked  at 
the  exits  of  Hornu.  Again  and  again  they  tried  to  de- 
bouch, but  without  success,  the  37th  Battery  working  great 
havoc  among  them.  It  seems  that  the  Germans  must  have 
lost  heavily,  for  the  Brandenburg  Grenadiers,  though  ex- 
hausted and  thinned  by  the  engagement  of  the  previous 
day,  were  hastily  called  up  to  reinforce  the  firing  line.^ 
Meanwhile,  the  German  artillery  had  for  some  time  been 
shelling  Wasmes  furiously,  causing  some  loss  in  the  13th 
Brigade  both  to  the  Duke's  and  to  the  West  Kent ;  but 
the  former,  as  already  related,  was  withdrawn  to  relieve 
the  Dorset,  and  shortly  afterwards  two  companies  of  the 
West  Kent  were  also  shifted  eastwards  to  fill  a  gap  between 
the  Duke's  and  the  K.O.Y.L.I.  The  German  guns  then 
turned    with   fury    upon   the    British    batteries,    and   the 

^  Of  the  approach  to  Hornu,  Hauptmann  Bloem  says  (p.  156)  that  his 
battahon  was  fired  on  by  gun  and  rifles  whilst  it  was  in  column  of  march, 
and  the  regimental  adjutant  brought  him  the  order  :  "  The  52nd  in  front 
are  heavily  engaged  and  require  reinforcement  at  any  cost.  Haste  is 
imperative."  Bloem  cannot  believe  his  observer  when  he  reports  "  Herr 
Hauptmann,  the  enemy  is  retiring."  "  What — what  do  you  say — the 
enemy  is  retiring.  You  mean  he  is  advancing."  ..."  In  the  thick 
masses  everybody  rushes  forward.  Grenadiers  and  Fusiliers,  men  of  all 
companies  mixed  up  .  .  .  we  jump  into  the  English  trenches.  .  .  . 
Suddenly  something  awful  happens."  They  were  heavily  shelled  by 
their  own  artillery. 


RETREAT  OF  THE  II.  CORPS  103 

XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  at  Champ  des  Sarts  was  com-  24  Aug. 
pelled  to  shift  its  ground.     But  here,  once  again,  the  enemy    ^^^'*- 
did  not  seriously  press  the  attack  of  his  infantry. 

On  the  front  of  the  14th  Brigade,  on  the  left  of  the 
13th,  all  was  quiet.  Still  further  to  the  west,  the  19th 
Brigade  had  received  orders  from  G.H.Q.  at  midnight  to 
fall  back  to  Elouges,  six  miles  south-east,  and  at  2  a.m.  it 
began  its  march  upon  that  village  by  Hensies  and  Quie- 
vrain.  At  the  same  hour,  the  French  84th  Territorial 
Division  evacuated  Conde  and  commenced  its  retirement 
towards  Cambrai.  At  dawn  the  Cavalry  Division,  which 
was  in  rear  of  the  left,  began  to  move  :  General  Allenby, 
finding  that  the  Germans  were  in  great  strength  on  his 
left,  decided  to  withdraw  some  distance,  and  sent  a  message 
to  Sir  Charles  Fergusson  to  that  effect ;  but,  on  hearing 
from  him  that  the  5th  Division  was  to  hold  its  ground, 
agreed  to  cover  its  left  flank.  A  squadron  of  the  9th  Map  8. 
Lancers,  feeling  its  way  forward  to  Thulin,  the  left  of  the 
II.  Corps,  found  the  enemy  at  the  northern  edge  of  the 
town  and  engaged  him.  Meanwhile,  the  2nd  Cavalry 
Brigade  (Br. -General  H.  de  B.  de  Lisle)  had  taken  up  a 
position  south  of  the  main  highway  to  Valenciennes  and 
astride  the  road  from  Thulin  to  Elouges  ;  the  1st  Cavalry 
Brigade  (Br.-General  C.  J.  Briggs)  was  on  the  railway  to  its 
left ;  the  3rd  (Br.-General  H.  de  la  P.  Gough)  to  the  left 
rear  of  the  1st  near  a  sugar  factory  about  a  thousand  yards 
south-east  of  Quievrain,  and  the  4th  (Br.-General  Hon.  C. 
Bingham)  at  Sebourg,  about  five  miles  further  south. 
There  they  remained  until  the  19th  Brigade  had  been  with- 
drawn, when  it  came  under  General  Allenby' s  command 
and  was  halted  at  Baisieux,  two  miles  south-west  of 
Elouges,  to  the  vicinity  of  which  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade 
also  retired.  Meanwhile,  the  advanced  squadron  of  the 
9th  Lancers  was  delaying  the  march  of  the  Germans 
from  Thulin,  and  inflicting  some  loss  upon  them,  though 
all  the  time  falling  back  upon  its  main  body.  About 
6  A.M.  German  guns  opened  fire  upon  that  main  body  from 
the  neighbourhood  of  Thulin,  and  about  7  a.m.  German 
infantry  and  artillery  —  of  the  7th  Division  of  the  IV. 
Corps — were  seen  moving  westward  along  the  highway  to 
Valenciennes.  One  party  turning  southward,  came  down 
the  road  towards  Elouges  in  column  of  route,  and,  after 
suffering  severely  from  the  rifles  of  the  18th  Hussars  and 
9th  Lancers  upon  either  side  of  it,  deployed  and  advanced 
upon  a  wide  front. 


104  MONS 

Thereupon,  General  Allenby,  ordering  the  road  Elouges 
— Audregnies — Angre — Roisin  (five  miles  south  of  Elouges) 
to  be  left  open  for  the  retreat  of  the  5th  Division,  about 
9  A.M.  began  to  withdraw  his  troops  slowly  southward. 
Though  he  had  sent  three  officers,  one  of  them  in  a  motor 
car,  to  ascertain  whether  the  5th  Division  had  begun  its 
retirement,  not  one  of  these  messengers  had  yet  returned. 
Accordingly,  he  made  his  dispositions  for  retreat  with  due 
precautions  for  the  safety  of  the  left  flank  of  the  Army. 
The  19th  Brigade  was  directed  to  fall  back  and  take  up  a 
position  at  Rombies  (three  miles  south-west  of  Baisieux 
and  about  seven  south  of  Conde),  and  then  the  Cavalry 
Division  began  to  withdraw,  by  successive  brigades,  in 
the  same  direction.  In  order  to  delay  the  enemy's  advance 
to  the  utmost,  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  which  formed  the 
rear  guard,  utilized  the  sunken  roads,  mineral  railways 
and  slag-heaps  which  crossed  and  dotted  the  ground 
between  the  Mons — Valenciennes  road  on  the  north  and  the 
villages  of  Elouges  and  Audregnies  on  the  south.  It  was 
supported  by  L  Battery  R.H.A.,  which  was  in  position  in 
the  middle  of  the  area  behind  the  railway  between  Elouges 
and  Quievrain.  The  brigade  was  very  heavily  shelled  as 
it  retired,  but  fortunately  little  harm  was  done,  and  here 
also  there  was  no  real  pressure  from  the  enemy.  By  11.30 
A.M.  the  very  last  parties  had  come  in,  and  the  2nd  Cavalry 
Brigade  was  moving  through  Audregnies  upon  Angre,  the 
18th  Hussars  bringing  up  the  rear. 
Maps  6  So  much  for  the  first  moves  of  the  great  retreat.  The 
^  '^'  succeeding  hours  of  the  24th  August  likewise  passed  with- 
out serious  trouble  on  the  right  of  the  Army.  General 
Home's  rear  guard  had,  as  related,  taken  up  a  position  on 
a  front  of  three  miles  facing  north-east,  with  its  right  on 
the  road  from  Mons  to  Maubeuge,  about  a  mile  north  of 
Bonnet,  its  left  near  Genly.  About  10.30  a.m.  the  8th 
Brigade  came  in  on  its  western  flank.  The  7th  Brigade, 
assembling  at  Genly  from  Ciply  and  Nouvelles,  passed 
through  the  8th  on  its  way  to  Blaregnies,  where  it — or, 
at  any  rate,  some  part  of  it — halted  and  faced  about. 
About  11  A.M.  the  5th  Brigade  ^  likewise  joined  the  8th 
on  the  western  side,  forming  up  in  depth  from  Eugies  to 
Sars  la  Bruyere.  The  9th  Brigade  made  its  way,  as  indeed 
from  the  direction  of  the  roads  was  inevitable,  to  the  same 

^  That  is  to  say,  the  three  battahons  which  had  been  at  Paturages. 
The  remaining  battalion  (2/Connaught  Rangers)  was  with  the  4th  (Guards) 
Brigade. 


THE  5th  division 


105 


point  ;  there  the  3rd  Division,  together  with  General  24  Aug. 
Home's  rear  guard,  waited  until  far  into  the  afternoon.  1914. 
There  was  no  pressure  whatever  upon  them.  Indeed,  at 
11  A.M.  General  Home  reported  that  the  special  responsi- 
bility of  his  rear  guard  was  at  an  end,  and  that  he  proposed 
to  return  his  troops  to  their  divisions.  But,  soon  after 
1  P.M.,  a  message  came  in  to  I.  Corps  headquarters  from 
the  II.  Corps  that  the  retreat  of  the  5th  Division  on  the 
left  was  delayed,  and  that  meanwhile  the  3rd  Division 
would  stand  fast.  Sir  Douglas  Haig  directed  his  rear 
guard  to  conform  with  the  movements  of  the  3rd  Division  ; 
it  accordingly  remained  in  its  position,  little  troubled  or 
threatened,  but  stationary. 

The  retirement  of  the  5th  Division  had  been  delayed  Maps  6 
by  the  fact  that  it  had  to  be  carried  out  in  the  close  pre-  &  7. 
sence  of  the  enemy.  The  Dorsetshire  and  Bedfordshire 
had  been  left  at  Paturages  covering  the  right  of  the  13th 
Brigade,  which  was  engaging  the  enemy  issuing  from  the 
southern  exits  of  Hornu.  After  the  withdrawal  of  the  5th 
Brigade  on  their  right,  it  was  evident  that  these  two  bat- 
talions could  not  maintain  themselves  in  such  a  position 
for  long,  and  at  10.30  a.m.  Br.-General  Count  Gleichen 
began  the  somewhat  awkward  operation  of  withdrawing 
them  westward  through  Paturages.  It  was  none  too  soon. 
The  first  line  transport  of  the  Dorsetshire,  retiring  by  La 
Bouverie  on  its  way  to  Blaugies,  six  miles  north  of  Bavai, 
was  caught  in  an  ambush  by  the  Germans,^  but  managed 
to  extricate  itself  with  little  loss;  then  at  11  a.m.  the  Bed- 
fordshire on  the  right  (south  of  the  railway  line  from 
Wasmes  to  Frameries),  and  the  Dorsetshire  on  the  left 
began  their  movement  south-west  across  the  rear  of  the 
13th  Brigade,  towards  Petit  Wasmes  and  Warquignies. 
They  had  some  sharp  fighting,  in  which  British  marksman- 
ship seems  to  have  told  its  usual  tale,  before  they  could 
clear  themselves  from  the  streets.  Part  of  the  Bedford- 
shire, acting  as  escort  to  the  divisional  artillery,  struck  due 
south  from  Warquignies,  and  made  its  way  to  St.  Waast 
les  Bavay  ;  ^  the  remainder  marched  to  Athis,  west  of 
Blaugies,  and  the  bulk  of  the  Dorsetshire  to  Blaugies  itself, 
where  both  halted,  the  time  being  about  2  p.m. 

About  11  a.m..  Sir  Charles  Fergusson  had  received  a 
message  from  the  II.  Corps,  giving  him  discretion  to  fall 

^  Part  of  the  20th  Regiment  of  the  6th  Division,  it  appears,  had  pressed 
on  (see  "  Mens  "),  between  Frameries  and  Paturages. 

^  On  some  maps  St.  Waast  la  Vallee,  two  miles  west  of  Bavai. 


106  MONS 

back  as  soon  as  the  troops  on  his  right  had  retired  ;  finding 
that  they  had  already  gone  and  that  the  enemy  was 
working  round  his  right  flank,  he  proceeded  to  follow  their 
example.  The  13th  Brigade  was  holding  its  own  with  no 
great  difficulty,  though  the  enemy  was  shelling  the  2/Duke 
of  Wellington's  on  the  right  and  inflicting  consider- 
able loss  ;  he  was  however  doing  little  mischief  to  the 
2/K.O.Y.L.I.,  and  still  refrained  from  any  serious  infantry 
attack.  The  14th  Brigade,  on  the  left  of  the  13th,  re- 
mained in  comparative  quiet,  the  2/Manchester,  part  of 
which  had  been  moved  up  to  the  left  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I., 
alone  being  under  heavy  artillery  fire.  This  brigade  began 
the  withdrawal  by  successive  battalions,  and  formed  up 
at  Blaugies  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  13th  Brigade.  The 
latter  then  fell  back.  The  VIII.  Howitzer  Brigade  with- 
drew at  once  ;  the  XXVIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  left  a  section 
of  each  battery  behind  to  support  the  infantry  rear  guards. 
The  operations  seem  to  have  proceeded  with  little  or  no 
interference  from  the  German  infantry.  One  enemy 
battery  did,  indeed,  come  into  action  in  the  open  at  three 
thousand  yards'  range,  but  was  quickly  silenced.  Only  in 
one  quarter  does  the  German  infantry  appear  to  have 
advanced  in  earnest.  By  some  mishap,  the  order  to 
retreat  did  not  reach  the  2/Duke's,  which  accordingly 
remained  in  position,  with  a  battery  of  the  XXVII.  Brigade 
R.F.A.  close  to  it.  About  11.30  a.m.,  exactly  the  time 
when  the  order  should  have  affected  the  Duke's,  the 
Germans  suddenly  concentrated  very  heavy  fire  upon  this 
battery  from  guns  which  they  had  brought  up  to  close 
range.  A  sharp  fight  followed  during  the  next  hour  and  a 
half,  and  it  was  only  the  rifles  of  the  infantry  that  saved  the 
British  battery.  About  1  p.m.  the  Germans  debouched  in 
thick  skirmishing  formation  followed  by  dense  masses  from 
the  Boussu — Quievrain  road  on  the  left  front  of  the  British 
battalion,  but  were  greeted  by  such  a  rain  of  bullets  from 
rifles  and  machine  guns  at  800  yards,  and  such  a  salute 
from  the  battery,  that  they  stopped  dead.  Under  cover  of 
this  final  stroke,  the  guns  limbered  up  and  the  battalion 
withdrew  south-west  into  Dour.  The  Duke's  had  suffered 
heavily,  their  casualties  reaching  nearly  four  hundred 
of  all  ranks,  but  they  had  driven  back  six  battalions.^ 
By  2  P.M.  the  13th  and  14th  Brigades  were  assembled  at 
Warquignies  and  Blaugies,  respectively,  ready  to  continue 

^  66th  and  26th  Regiments  of  the  7th  Division  (see  "  Mons,"  Sketch  5). 
A  German  infantry  regiment  contained  three  battaUons. 


ELOUGES  107 

their   retreat   to   their   places   in   the   new   position  :     St.  24  Aug. 
Waast  (2  miles  west  of  Bavai)  and  Eth  (4  miles  west  and  a   ^^^'** 
little  north  of  St.  Waast). 

But  the  5th  Division  was  not  destined  to  march  so  far  Map  8. 
to  the  south-west  as  Eth.  Hardly  had  the  13th  and  14th 
Brigades  begun  their  retreat,  when  Sir  Charles  Fergusson 
became  aware  that  the  withdrawal  of  the  cavalry  and  19th 
Brigade  had  been  premature,  and  that  his  left  flank  was 
seriously  threatened  by  German  forces  of  considerable 
strength  advancing  due  south  between  Thulin  and  Conde.^ 
At  11.45  A.M.  he  sent  an  urgent  message  to  the  Cavalry 
Division  to  come  to  his  assistance,  and  at  the  same  time 
placed  the  1 /Norfolk  and  1 /Cheshire,  together  with  the 
119th  Battery,  all  of  which  were  still  in  reserve  near 
divisional  headquarters  at  Dour,  under  the  command  of 
Lieut. -Colonel  C.  R.  Ballard  of  the  Norfolk  Regiment. 
The  first  orders  given  to  this  officer  were  to  advance  north 
and  counter-attack.  Accordingly,  he  moved  his  troops 
northward  for  half  a  mile  till  a  staff  officer  came  up  and 
directed  them  to  be  moved  westward  into  position  along 
the  Elouges — Audregnies — Angre  road,  down  which,  as 
we  have  seen,  the  rear  guard  of  the  Cavalry  Division  had 
already  retired.  Thither,  accordingly,  they  marched. 
General  Allenby  had  received  General  Fergusson's  message 
about  noon,  and  responded  instantly  by  sending  back  the 
2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  to  the  vicinity  of  Audregnies, 
which  brought  them  within  a  couple  of  miles  of  Colonel 
Ballard.  The  18th  Hussars,  who  had  just  quitted  their 
position  of  the  forenoon,  returned  ;  L  Battery  came  up 
next  at  a  rapid  trot,  and  halted  just  to  the  west  of  Elouges  ; 
whilst  the  9th  Lancers  formed  up  by  the  road  immediately 
to  north  of  that  village,  with  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards  in 
rear.  Simultaneously,  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  which 
was  nearing  Rombies,  faced  about  and,  hastening  back, 
occupied  a  position  on  the  ridge  immediately  west  of  Au- 
dregnies. 

The  scene  of  action  was  an  irregular  parallelogram, 
bounded  on  the  north  by  the  great  highway  from  Mons  to 
Valenciennes,  on  the  east  by  the  Elouges  rivulet,  on  the 
south  by  the  road  from  Elouges  to  Audregnies,  and  on  the 
west  by  the  valley  of  the  Honnelle  :  a  space,  roughly 
speaking,  about  three  thousand  yards  from  north  to  south, 
by  five  thousand  from  east  to  west.  From  south  to  north 
the  ground  forms  a  perfect  natural  glacis,   at  this  time 

1  The  whole  IV.  Corps. 


108  MONS 

covered  with  corn-stooks.  Across  the  parallelogram  runs 
the  railway  from  Elouges  to  Quievrain,  for  the  most  part 
sunk  in  cutting  and  bordered  upon  each  side  by  a  quickset 
hedge.  About  a  thousand  yards  to  the  south,  a  mineral 
railway  runs  parallel  with  it  for  about  half  its  length,  and 
then  comes  to  an  abrupt  end  in  a  group  of  cottages.  More 
or  less  parallel  to  the  Honnelle,  the  old  Roman  road, 
famous  under  the  name  of  the  Chaussee  Brunehaut,  runs 
straight  as  an  arrow  north-west  from  Audregnies,  cutting 
the  great  highway  about  a  thousand  yards  east  of  Quievrain. 
Upon  this  road,  about  a  mile  and  a  quarter  north  of  Au- 
dregnies, stood  a  sugar-factory,  and,  immediately  to  the 
east  of  it,  a  cluster  of  high  slag-heaps. 

It  was  now  about  12.30  p.m.  Colonel  Ballard's  force 
was  just  taking  up  its  ground,  facing  nearly  west,  the 
Norfolk  with  their  right  resting  on  the  railway  from 
Elouges  to  Quievrain,  and  the  Cheshire  on  their  left, 
carrying  the  line  to  the  northern  outskirts  of  Audregnies, 
and  securing  touch  with  the  cavalry.  All  had,  so  far,  been 
comparatively  quiet,  when  a  sudden  burst  of  fire,  both  of 
guns  and  rifles,  from  the  north-west,  gave  warning  that  the 
Germans  were  opening  their  attack.  It  developed  in 
two  distinct  parts,  one  from  Quievrain,  the  other  from  the 
Bois  de  Deduit  and  Baisieux  south-east  upon  Audregnies. 
Br.-General  de  Lisle  (2nd  Cavalry  Brigade),  galloping  to  the 
9th  Lancers,  instructed  the  commanding  officer  to  deliver, 
if  necessary,  a  mounted  attack  northwards  in  order  to  take 
the  German  advance  in  flank  ;  whilst  L  Battery,  finding 
no  suitable  forward  position  near,  w^heeled  about  and 
galloped  south,  coming  into  action  behind  the  railway  just 
to  the  east  of  Audregnies. 

Lieut. -Colonel  D.  G.  M.  Campbell  ordered  the  9th 
Lancers  to  advance,  which  they  did  at  the  gallop  in  column 
of  squadrons,  with  two  troops  of  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards 
echeloned  to  their  left  rear.  Crossing  the  sunken  road 
from  Baisieux  to  Elouges  at  a  point  where  it  ran  level  with 
the  ground,  they  galloped  on,  speared  a  couple  of  German 
scouts  near  the  road,  and  caught  sight  of  a  few  more  taking 
cover  among  the  corn-stooks  ;  then,  their  advance  checked 
by  the  fire  of  nine  batteries,  they  hesitated.  Some  dis- 
mounted by  the  sugar-factory,  others  swept  round  to  the 
right  and  back  towards  Audregnies,  and  a  great  number, 
retiring  along  the  mineral  railway  towards  Elouges,  rallied 
there  upon  the  18th  Hussars.  Simultaneously,  a  squadron 
of  the  4th  Dragoon  Guards  galloped  down  a  narrow  lane 


ELOUGES  109 

towards  Baisieux,  in  order  to  seize  a  house  at  the  end  of  it,  24  Aug. 
and  thus  cover  a  further  advance  upon  Quievrain.     On  its    ^^i^* 
way  the  squadron  was  shattered  by  heavy  fire  of  rifles  and 
shrapnel  and,  thoug^h  the  cottage  was  eventually  reached 
and  held,  the  effort  led  to  no  result. 

The  advance  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  seems  to  have 
produced  some  moral  effect  in  delaying  the  progress  of  the 
German  attack,  and  so  gained  time  for  Colonel  Ballard's 
flank  guard  to  settle  down,  not,  indeed,  in  entrenchments — 
for  there  was  not  a  moment  to  spare  for  digging — but  in 
fair  natural  cover.  Probably  it  made  matters  easier  also 
for  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  which  was  now  in  position 
further  south  about  Angre,  supported  by  the  1st  Cavalry 
Brigade  and  covered  by  the  guns  of  D  and  E  Batteries  in 
rear,  with  its  machine  guns  firing  down  the  valley  on 
Baisieux.  About  12.45  p.m.  the  action  became  serious,  with 
obvious  signs  of  an  enveloping  movement.  The  Germans 
had  at  least  seven  batteries  in  action  about  a  mile  north 
of  the  Valenciennes  road  towards  the  hamlet  of  La  Croix, 
and,  under  the  protection  of  their  shells,  the  main  body  of 
their  infantry — apparently  a  division  of  the  I V.  Corps  ^ — 
closed  up  on  the  advanced  guards  and  strove  to  carry 
them  further.  Solid  masses  emerged  from  Quievrain 
and  from  a  small  wood  at  its  north-eastern  corner,  and 
dense  columns  came  streaming  down  the  three  broad  rides 
which  led  from  the  Bois  de  Deduit,  midway  between 
Quievrain  and  Baisieux,  into  the  open.  L  Battery  now  had 
the  chance  for  which  every  gunner  prays  ;  no  sooner  did 
the  Germans  show  themselves  than  it  opened  upon  them 
with  shrapnel,  bursting  its  shells  low,  with  an  accuracy 
which  literally  mowed  down  the  advancing  masses.  In 
vain  they  ran  back  to  cover,  rallied  and  endeavoured  to 
press  forward.  In  vain  four  German  batteries,  three  firing 
shrapnel  and  one  high  explosive,  strove  to  silence  the  ex- 
asperating guns  which  had  arrested  the  progress  of  the 
infantry.  Their  shrapnel  burst  high  and  scattered  harm- 
less bullets,  while  their  high-explosive,  with  the  exception 
of  one  shell  which  caused  ten  casualties,  fell  wide.  L 
Battery  was  not  to  be  silenced,  and  forbade,  under  heavy 
penalty,  any  hostile  advance  from  Quievrain. 

Colonel  Ballard's  infantry,  likewise,  with  a  perfect 
natural  glacis  before  it,  seemed  secure  ;  the  119th  Battery, 
which  was  in  position  south  of  Elouges,  not  less  so.     The 

^  All   four   regiments,   twelve    battalions,   of  the    8th   Division   were 
engaged  ("  Mons  "). 


110  MONS 

fire  of  the  German  artillery  was  heavy,  but  its  shell,  for 
the  most  part,  went  over.  The  119th  Battery  answered 
the  German  guns  with  considerable  effect,  the  Norfolks 
found  excellent  targets  in  the  German  infantry,  who 
strove  to  swarm  out  of  Quievrain,  while  the  Cheshire 
brought  both  rifles  and  machine  guns  to  bear  with  great 
execution  upon  the  masses  which  were  endeavouring  to 
debouch  from  the  Bois  de  Deduit.  The  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade,  which  was  spared  all  artillery  fire,  likewise  held 
its  own  successfully  south  of  the  infantry,  before  Baisieux, 
and,  with  the  help  of  D  and  E  Batteries,  effectually  barred 
the  way  against  the  Germans  at  that  point.  The  baffled 
enemy  then  tried  a  movement  still  further  to  the  south 
by  Marchipont,  but  was  stopped  by  the  5th  Dragoon 
Guards,  who  had  come  up,  from  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade, 
on  the  left  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade.  Everywhere  the 
Germans  were  checked.  The  first  of  Kluck's  enveloping 
movements  had  been,  in  fact,  completely  and  victoriously 
foiled. 

There  were,  however,  disquieting  signs  of  a  still  wider 
turning  movement  further  to  the  west  about  Quarouble 
(three  miles  south-west  of  Quievrain),  where  a  mass  of 
German  infantry,  thought  to  be  the  flank  guard  of  an 
army  corps,^  could  be  seen  moving  steadily  to  the  south. 
Accordingly,  shortly  after  (about  2.30  p.m.)  Colonel  Ballard 
gave  the  order  to  retire. 
Maps  3  About  the  same  hour  the  troops  to  the  eastward  were 
^  6-  also  set  in  motion  to  resume  the  retreat.  The  3rd  Division 
marched  from  Genly — Sars  la  Bruyere  for  Bavai  en  route 
for  the  villages  to  the  south-west  of  that  town  ;  General 
Home's  rear  guard,  on  its  right,  moved  last  of  all,  not 
until  about  4.30  p.m.  The  main  body  of  the  5th  Division 
struck  south  from  Blaugies  through  Athis  upon  Bavai  and 
St,  Waast,  its  place  in  the  selected  position  ;  the  Cavalry 
Division  also  prepared  to  withdraw,  the  1st  Cavalry 
Brigade  moving  up  to  Onnezies  to  cover  the  first  rearward 
Map  8.  bound  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  to  Angre.  Meanwhile, 
the  effect  of  the  advance  of  the  Germans  ^  to  the  east  of 
Colonel  Ballard's  flank  guard  was  beginning  to  be  felt, 
and  the  119th  Battery,  between  the  fire  of  the  three 
German  batteries,  and  of  a  machine  gun  at  much  closer 
range,  was  suffering  considerably.  One  section,  the  first 
that  had  come  into  action,  fired  at  the  hostile  infantry 

*  Actually  the  three  battalions  of  the  36th  Regiment  of  the  IV.  Corps. 
*  The  7th  Division  of  the  IV.  Corps, 


ELOUGES  111 

until  it  was  within  eight  hundred  yards,  and  then  with-  24  Aug. 
drew.  The  four  remaining  guns  were  brought  off  by  the  ^^^'*- 
battery  commander,  Major  E.  W.  Alexander,  one  at  a  time, 
with  the  help  of  a  party  of  the  9th  Lancers.^  The  Norfolk 
then  fell  back  in  two  parties  under  a  continuous  hail  of 
shrapnel  bullets,  leaving  a  hundred  of  their  wounded 
behind  them  at  Elouges.  Most  unfortunately,  both  the 
second  in  command  and  the  adjutant  were  wounded  at 
this  critical  moment,  and  thus  one  platoon  in  an  advanced 
position  received  no  orders  to  retire. 

Colonel  Ballard  sent  to  the  Cheshire  three  separate 
messages  to  fall  back,  not  one  of  which  reached  them. 
The  major  of  L  Battery  also  did  not  receive  orders,  but 
seeing  no  sign  of  the  Norfolk  and  having  fired  away  nearly 
the  whole  of  his  ammunition,  was  meditating  withdrawal 
when  the  brigade-major  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  arrived 
and  directed  him  to  bring  his  battery  out  of  action.  The 
guns  were  thereupon  run  down  close  under  the  screen  of 
the  railway  hedge  ;  the  limbers  were  brought  up  one  by 
one  at  a  gallop  from  Audregnies  ;  and  the  battery  limbered 
up  and  got  away  without  further  mishap.  The  party  of 
the  4th  Dragoon  Guards  in  the  house  by  the  lane  then 
retired  also  ;  and  they,  together  with  L  Battery  and  the 
main  body  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  moved  off  south- 
westward  upon  Ruesnes.  The  Cavalry  Division  had  mean- 
while fallen  back  towards  St.  Waast  and  Wargnies,  the 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade  being  further  to  the  west  between 
Saultain  and  Jenlain. 

The  Cheshire,  together  with  a  small  party  of  the  Norfolk, 
were  thus  left  alone.  Lieut. -Colonel  D.  C.  Boger,  command- 
ing the  former,  was  unaware  of  the  general  retreat  of  the 
force,  so  that  he  was  at  a  loss  to  know  what  was  expected 
of  him.  The  Germans  were  now  pressing  forward  rapidly 
upon  both  flanks,  and  about  4  p.m.,  while  making  disposi- 
tions to  meet  the  movement,  he  was  disabled  by  three 
wounds.  Shortly  before  this,  part  of  the  reserve  company 
of  the  Cheshire  at  Audregnies  had  been  ordered  by  a  staff 
officer  to  fall  back,  and,  after  vainly  striving  to  rejoin  the 
fighting  line — which  was  rightly  forbidden — made  its  way 
to  Athis.     As  the  Germans  came  closer,  the  main  body 

1  Major  Alexander  received  the  V.C.  for  "  handling  his  battery  against 
"  overwhelming  odds  with  such  conspicuous  success  that  all  his  guns  were 
"  saved,  notwithstanding  that  they  had  to  be  withdrawn  by  hand  by  him- 
"  self  and  three  other  men."  Captain  Francis  Grenfell,  9th  Lancers,  also 
received  the  V.C.  on  this  day  for  gallantry  in  action  and  for  assisting  to 
save  the  guns  of  the  119th  Battery. 


112  MONS 

of  the  Cheshire  fell  back  to  the  Audregnies  road,  where  they 
were  fired  on  by  two  machine  guns  placed  in  a  dip  in  the 
ground,  a  couple  of  hundred  yards  away.  These  were 
promptly  silenced  by  the  machine  guns  of  the  Cheshire, 
and  a  little  party  of  men  charged  forward  with  the  bayonet 
to  dislodge  the  enemy  from  this  point  of  vantage.  The 
Germans  turned  at  the  sight  of  them,  and  during  this  short 
respite  the  opportunity  was  taken  to  draw  off  a  small  part 
of  the  battalion  across  country  to  Audregnies  wood,  which 
they  reached  under  heavy  fire,  thence  making  their  way 
to  Athis.  But  the  Germans,  seeing  how  few  were  their 
assailants,  returned  to  the  attack,  and  there  was  nothing 
left  for  the  remainder  of  the  Cheshire,  mere  handful  though 
they  were,  but  to  fight  to  the  last.  They  still  had  ammuni- 
tion and  could  keep  up  rapid  fire,  and,  by  this  time  separ- 
ated into  at  least  three  groups,  they  continued  to  defend 
themselves  desperately  until  nearly  7  p.m.  Then  at  last, 
surrounded  and  overwhelmed  on  all  sides,  they  laid  down 
their  arms.  Of  the  main  body  on  the  Audregnies  road, 
only  forty  remained  unwounded.  Their  captors  were  the 
72nd  Regiment,  belonging  to  the  German  IV.  Corps. 

The  troubles  of  the  small  parties  which  had  escaped 
were  not  ended  on  the  battlefield.  The  enemy  broke  in 
from  Dour  during  their  retreat,  and  cut  off  a  few  men, 
and  at  Athis  only  one  hundred  could  be  assembled.  The 
indefatigable  gunners  of  the  5th  Division  artillery  came  into 
action  along  the  line  Blaugies — Athis — Montignies,  and 
again  further  to  the  south  at  Houdain,  and  this  enabled 
the  survivors  of  the  flank  guard  to  reach  their  bivouac  at 
St.  Waast  at  9  p.m.,  utterly  worn  by  hunger,  fatigue  and 
hard  fighting,  but  still  unvanquished.  They  had  held  off 
from  the  main  body  of  the  5th  Division  the  pursuit  of  a 
whole  German  corps,  but  at  heavy  cost.  The  119th 
Battery  had  lost  thirty  officers  and  men  ;  the  Norfolk 
over  two  hundred  and  fifty  officers  and  men  ;  whilst  of  the 
Cheshire,  who  in  the  morning  had  mustered  nearly  a 
thousand,  only  two  officers  and  two  hundred  men  answered 
their  names  at  St.  Waast. 

The  total  losses  on  the  24th  August  were  greater  than 
on  the  23rd,  and  amounted  to  roughly  250  in  the  Cavalry 
Division,  100  in  the  I.  Corps,  550  in  the  3rd  Division, 
1650  in  the  5th  Division  and  40  in  the  19th  Infantry 
Brigade. 

Thus  ended  the  first  day  of  the  retreat.  All  circum- 
stances considered,  although  the  casualties  were  consider- 


SITUATION  AT  NIGHT  113 

able,  the  operations  had  not  been  unsuccessful.  The  24  Aug. 
5th  Division  had,  indeed,  been  called  upon  not  only  to  i^i*. 
defend  six  miles  of  front,  but  also,  with  the  help  of  the 
cavalry  and  of  the  19th  Brigade,  to  parry  Kluck's  envelop- 
ing attack,  and  it  had  triumphantly  accomplished  its  task. 
The  flanking  battalions  to  the  east  and  west  had,  it  is  true, 
suffered  much,  but  only  one  had  been  actually  over- 
whelmed ;  not  a  single  gun  had  been  lost  ;  and  the  enemy 
had  been  very  severely  punished.  Our  troops  were  still 
confident  that,  when  on  anything  like  equal  terms,  they 
were  more  than  a  match  for  their  opponents  ;  the  one 
trouble  which  really  oppressed  them  was  want  of  sleep. 
Long  after  nightfall  the  battalions  of  the  3rd  Division  were 
passing  the  cross  roads  in  Bavai,  the  men  stumbling  along 
more  like  robots  than  living  soldiers,  unconscious  of  every- 
thing about  them,  but  still  moving  under  the  magic  impulse 
of  discipline  and  regimental  pride.  Marching,  they  were 
hardly  awake  ;  halted,  whether  sitting  or  standing,  they 
were  instantly  asleep.  Yet  these  men  on  the  eastern  flank 
of  the  corps  had  done  little  fighting  and  endured  little  press- 
ure during  the  day.  Worse  was  it  on  the  western  flank, 
where  cavalry  and  infantry  had  had  hard  fighting  from 
dawn  till  dusk,  and  many  a  man  had  been  for  over  twenty- 
four  hours  without  sleep  or  food.  And  this,  it  must  be 
borne  in  mind,  was  only  the  beginning  of  the  retreat. 

The  general  disposition  of  the  Army  on  the  night  of  the  sketches 
24th/25th,  on  a  line  east  to  west  through  Bavai,  was  : —      A  &  4. 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade  .        .        .   Feignies.  &  13. 

I.  Corps 


1st  Division 

2nd  Division  . 

II.  Corps  : 

5th  Division  . 

3rd  Division  . 

Cavalry  Division) 

19th  Brigade  / 


Feignies,  La  Longueville. 
Bavai. 

Bavai,  St.  Waast. 

St.  Waast,  Amfroipret, 

Bermeries. 
St.  Waast,  Wargnies,^ 
Jenlain,  Saultain. 


It  will  be  observed  that  in  the  course  of  the  day's  march, 
the  3rd  and  5th  Divisions  had  changed  places,  the  latter 
being  now  on  the  right  and  the  former  on  the  left  of  the 
11.   Corps.     This  manoeuvre  was  intentional  and  carried 

^  The  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  was  much  broken  up.  Headquarters,  with 
L  Battery,  |  squadron  of  4th  Dragoon  Guards,  1^  squadrons  of  9th  Lancers, 
and  one  squadron  of  18th  Hussars,  were  at  Ruesnes. 

VOL.  I  I 


114  MONS 

out  in  accordance  with  orders  issued  for  the  purpose.  The 
whole  Army  was  inchning  westward,  in  order  to  clear 
Maubeuge,  and  since  the  3rd  Division  was  able  to  begin 
its  retirement  considerably  before  the  5th,  it  could  without 
difficulty  proceed  to  the  westward  of  Bavai,  and  thus 
shorten  the  retreat  of  the  5th  Division  by  permitting  it  to 
fall  back  due  south  instead  of  south-west,  and  so  to  drop 
into  its  place  on  the  right  of  the  II.  Corps.  This  move- 
ment not  only  eased  the  immediate  task  of  the  5th  Divi- 
sion, but  relieved  it  from  its  difficult  position  upon  the 
threatened  western  flank  ;  it  was  carried  out  without  any 
collision,  in  fact  without  the  divisions  seeing  each  other. 

NOTE  I 

German  Movements  on  the  24th  August  1914 

3  The  German  accounts  of  the  24th  August  are  somewhat  meagre. 
Kluck  (according  to  the  German  Official  Account)  ordered  the 
"  continuation  of  the  attack  "  to  begin  at  4  a.m.  :  the  //.  Corps, 
which  was  deeply  echeloned  behind  the  right,  to  close  up  to  the 
front  line  ;  and  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  to  push  up  behind  the  right 
flank.  Both  corps  were  to  move  at  1  a.m.  and  reach  Conde  and 
Ligne  (west  of  Ath).  The  directions  given  to  the  other  corps  were  : 
IX.  Corps,  right  on  Bavai  ;  ///.  Corps,  left  on  Bavai  ;  IV.  on 
Wargnies  le  Grand  (6  miles  west  of  Bavai)  and  westwards.  Marwitz's 
cavalry  corps,  moving  on  Courtrai,  was,  by  Billow's  orders,  implored 
to  turn  south  on  Denain  (25  miles  west  of  Bavai)  and  cut  off  the 
retreat  of  the  British.  At  10.30  a.m.  the  cavalry  corps  was  put 
under  Kluck,  and  ordered  to  Valenciennes  via  Denain  ;  but  it  was 
delayed  at  Tournai  by  the  action  with  French  Territorial  troops 
(which  it  had  mistaken  for  British),  and  at  night,  after  a  25-mile 
march,  was  still  about  10  miles  short  of  Denain. 

All  that  Kluck  himself  has  to  say  about  the  day  is  :  "  After  heavy 
"  fighting,  the  leading  troops  reached  a  line  (west  to  east)  Onain — 
"  Elouges — Dour — Genly — Harveng.  The  British  force,  estimated  at 
"  from  two  to  three  divisions,  was  driven  back  towards  a  line  Curgies 
"  — Bavai."  He  does  not  explain  why  his  attempt  at  envelopment 
failed,  why  such  a  very  short  advance — only  three  and  a  half  miles 
from  the  canal — was  made,  or  why  his  corps  halted  in  the  middle 
of  the  afternoon.  His  staff  officer,  Kuhl,^  states  frankly  "  the  enemy 
"  put  up  a  lively  resistance  with  rear  guards  so  that  we  only  ad- 
"  vanced  slowly."  Kluck  adds  :  "  After  the  severe  opposition 
"  offered  by  the  British  Army  in  the  two-days  battle  Mons — St. 
"  Ghislain,  a  further  and  even  stronger  defence  was  to  be  expected 
"  on  the  line  Valenciennes — Bavai — Maubeuge,"  and  he  then  quotes 
four  pages  from  Sir  John  French's  despatch. 

The  German  General  Staff  monograph,  "  Mons  "  gives  a  few 
details — some  of  which  have  been  noticed  in  footnotes — and  explains 
the  absence  of  the  IX.  Corps  from  the  fighting.    The  orders  for  its 

1  Kuhl's  "  Maine,"  p.  72. 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  115 

advance  were  not  issued  until  about  8  a.m.,  and  immediately  after-  24  Aug. 
wards  "  an  aviator  brought  news  from  which  it  appeared  that  the  1914. 
"  enemy  had  left  only  weak  infantry  and  artillerj^  on  the  line  Ciply — 
"  Nouvelles^Givry,  that  numerous  small  columns  were  in  retreat 
"  to  the  south  and  south-west,  and  that  the  enemy's  artillery  was 
"  in  lively  action  with  our  own.  At  9  a.m.  the  enemy's  fire  ceased, 
"  and  the  advancing  infantry  encountered  no  more  resistance,  as  the 
"  enemy  had  apparently  marched  off  in  great  haste." 

Nothing  therefore  could  have  been  more  successful  than  the  with- 
drawal of  the  I.  Corps  and  3rd  Division.  The  heavy  losses  inflicted 
on  the  Germans  on  the  23rd  had  not  been  without  important  results. 

The  sketch  maps  in  the  monograph  show  that  in  the  German 
III.  Corps  the  6th  Division  attacked  Frameries  and  Paturages,  and 
the  5th  Division  Hornu  and  Boussu.  Towards  5  p.m.  this  corps  halted 
for  the  night. 

The  German  regimental  accounts  of  the  fighting  at  Frameries 
are  so  greatly  to  the  credit  of  the  British  Expeditionary  Force,  that 
they  are  worth  recording  here. 

The  attack  on  the  Lincolnshire  and  South  Lancashire  was  made 
by  a  whole  German  division — the  6th  of  the  ///.  Corps.  There  is 
a  detailed  story  of  the  action  by  Captain  von  Brandis  of  the  24fh 
(Brandenburg)  Regiment.^     He  says  : — 

"  Our  artillery  is  to  prepare  the  assault.  ...  A  continuous 
"  stream  of  gun  and  howitzer  shell  thunders  out,  hurtling  and 
"  howling  over  our  heads,  and  bursting  in  dust  and  smoke  on  the 
"  edge  of  the  village  [Frameries].  No  human  beings  could  possibly 
"  live  there.  At  7  a.m.  six  companies  of  the  regiment  advance  to 
"  the  attack.  We  remain  impatiently  in  reserve.  ...  If  we  thought 
"  that  the  English  had  been  shelled  enough  to  be  storm-ripe,  we  were 
"  fairly  mistaken.     They  met  us  with  well-aimed  fire." 

His  company  was  then  sent  up  to  reinforce.  As  it  reached  the 
firing  line,  the  men  shout  "  Vorwarts  "  expecting  to  carry  it  with 
them,  but  no  one  rose.  "  There  were  only  dead  and  wounded  to 
"  be  seen.  Tommy  seems  to  have  waited  for  the  moment  of  the 
"  assault.  He  had  carefully  studied  our  training  manuals,  and 
"  suddenly,  when  we  were  well  in  the  open,  he  turned  his  machine 
"  guns  on."  It  was  however  only  rapid  rifle  fire.  The  assault  failing, 
the  village  was  shelled  again,  and  the  attack  renewed  with  larger 
forces.  Eventually  the  Germans  entered  Frameries  and  found  no 
defenders  there. 

"  Up  to  all  the  tricks  of  the  trade  from  their  experience  of  small 
"  wars,  the  English  veterans  brilliantly  understood  how  to  slip  off 
"  at  the  last  moment."  Of  the  casualties  he  says  :  "  Our  battalion 
"  alone  lost  three  company  commanders,  and,  besides,  every  second 
"  officer  and  every  third  man." 

Captain  Liebenow  ^  of  the  64th  Regiment,  of  the  same  brigade 
as  Brandis,  states  that  his  battalion  at  Frameries  lost  "  the  adjutant, 
"  every  fourth  man  and,  of  three  companies,  every  lieutenant." 

Captain  Heubner,^  of  the  20th  Regiment,  states  :  "  many  of  our 
"  companies  had  hea\y  losses  in  the  attack  on  Frameries.  ...  As 
"  on  the  previous  day,  the  English  again  vanished  w'ithout  leaving 
"  a  trace  (spurlos).'''' 

1  In  his  book  "  Die  Stiirmer  von  Douaumont." 

*  In  a  letter  to  "  The  Times  Literary  Supplement,"  4tli  September  1919. 

»  In  his  book  "Unter  Emmich  vor  Luttich,  Unter  Kluck  vor  Paris." 


116  MONS 

In  the  IV.  Corps,  the  7th  Division  moved  through  Thuhn  towards 
Elouges  and  the  8th,  swinging  westwards,  came  through  Quievrain 
and  QuievTechain  towards  Audregnies  and  Angre,  and  thus,  as 
related,  struck  the  5th  Division  flank  guard.  Tliey  halted  in  the 
afternoon  :  the  7th  Division  near  Elouges  and  the  8th  at  Baisieux 
and  northwards.  No  details  of  the  fighting  are  given  in  the  German 
account,  but  it  is  mentioned  that  the  "  British  resistance  was  quickly 
"  broken."  This  statement  is  not  borne  out  by  time  and  space  :  it 
is  sufficient  commentary  on  it  to  remark  that  through  a  long  summer's 
day  these  two  divisions  made  an  average  advance  of  only  three 
miles. 
Map  5.  Kluck's  orders  for  the  25th,  issued  at  8  p.m.,  were  :  "  Enemy's 
•'  main  position  is  believed  to  be  Bavai — ^Valenciennes.  The  First 
"  Army  will  attack  it  with  envelopment  of  the  left  flank,  //.  Cavalry 
"  Corps  against  the  enemy's  rear."  He  "  was  of  the  opinion  that 
"  he  had  so  far  had  only  to  deal  with  advanced  portions  of  the  British 
"  Army — two  or  three  divisions — which  had  now  withdrawn  on  to 
"  what  was  supposed  to  be  their  main  position."  ^ 


NOTE  II 

The  Operations  of  the  French  Troops  on  the  British 
Left  between  20th  and  24th  August  ^ 

Maps  2  G.Q.G.  instructions  to  General  d'Amade,  who  took  up  his  head- 
&  3.  quarters  at  Arras  on  18th  August  1914,  were  :  "To  establish  a 
"  barrier  between  Dunkerque  and  Maubeuge,  in  order  to  protect  the 
"  railway  communications  from  possible  raids  by  enemy  cavalry." 
He  was  also  to  extend  the  inundations  of  the  Scarpe,  the  Schelde 
and  the  Rhonelle  by  opening  the  canal  sluices,  and  to  occupy  the 
old  forts  of  Maulde,  Flines,  Curgies,  Conde  and  Le  Quesnoy. 

In  accordance  with  these  instructions  General  d'Amade,  on  the 
20th  August,  disposed  his  three  Territorial  divisions  ("  de  campagne  " 
— i.e.  excluding  the  Territorial  divisions  "  de  place,"  such  as  tlie 
34th  Territorial  Division  at  Lille)  as  follows  : — 

Map  5.  81st  from  the  sea  to  the  Lys  ; 

82nd  from  the  Lys  to  the  Scarpe  ; 
84th  from  the  Scarpe  to  the  Sambre. 

Map  3.  The  main  line  of  defence  for  the  84th  was  :  northern  edge  of  Bois 
I'Eveque  (north-east  of  Le  Cateau) — Solesmes — Villers  en  Cauchies 
—  Estrun  —  Sensee  Canal  ;  its  advanced  line  being  Maubeuge — 
Mecquignies  —  Wargnies  —  Valenciennes — junction  of  Schelde  and 
Scarpe. 

On  the  22nd,  on  the  advance  of  the  British  Army  west  of  Mau- 
beuge, the  84th  Division  closed  in  on  its  left  about  Valenciennes, 
clearing  the  British  front,  and  advanced  to  Conde.  It  then  formed 
along  the  Schelde  from  Conde  north-westwards  to  Maulde. 

On  the  night  of  the  22nd/23rd  the  88th  Territorial  Division  left 
Choisy  le  Roi,  near  Paris,  in  twenty-two  trains,  and  detrained  on 
the  morning  of  the  23rd  at  Seclin  and  Templeuve,  near  Lille.     It 

1  G.O.A.,  i.  p.  430.  *  See  F.O.A.,  1. 


MOVEMENTS  OF  D'AMADE'S  GROUP         117 

was  then  ordered  to  march  at  once  towards  Cysoing  (8  miles  south-  23-24Aiig. 
east  of  Lille)  and  then  to  retake  Tournai,  which  some  German  cavalry       1914. 
had  entered  on  the  22nd.i     The  main  body  of  the  division  reached  Map  2. 
Cysoing  early  on  the  24th,  and  at  9  a.m.  was  suddenly  subjected  to 
a  heavy  artillery  fire  (by  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps)  from  about  Tournai. 
As  the  division  had  no  artillery,  it  eventually  retired  towards  Tem- 
pleuve  and  Arras,  after  delaying  the  enemy  some  hours. 

After  the  German  attack  at  Mons  on  the  23rd,  General  d'Amade  Map  3. 
reconstructed  his  line.  At  2  a.m.  (24th)  the  84th  Division  retired 
from  Conde  through  Valenciennes  towards  Cambrai  and  Marquion. 
During  the  morning  of  the  24th,  the  rear  guard  of  the  division  in 
position  near  Fresnes  (two  miles  south  of  Conde)  was  attacked  and 
badly  shaken.  On  the  25th,  as  will  be  seen,  the  division,  still  on  the 
left  of  the  British,  was  attacked  when  near  Haspres  and  became 
disorganized. 

Lille  was  evacuated  on  the  24th  by  order  of  the  Ministry  of  jyjap  2. 
War,^  and  the  82nd  Division  took  up  the  line  La  Bassee — Corbehem. 
The  81st  Division  conformed  to  this  move  and  was  allocated  the 
area  between  Aire  and  the  sea.    Thus,  a  barrier  between  the  British 
left  and  the  sea  was  still  maintained. 

1  This  cavalry  patrol  left  again  within  a  few  hours. 
2  For  an  account  of  this  incident  see  General  Percin's  "  Lille." 


CHAPTER  V 

THE    RETREAT    FROM    MONS    {continued) 

The  25th  August 

(Sketches  A,  4  «&  6  ;  Maps  2,  3,  9,  10  &  13) 

Sketch  4.  After  a  visit  to  the  I.  Corps  and  to  General  Sordet  at 
Map  3.  Avesnes,  Sir  John  French,  on  his  return  to  G.H.Q.  at  Bavai 
in  the  afternoon  of  the  24th  August,  received  further  in- 
formation of  the  retreat  of  the  French  Third  and  Fourth 
Armies  and  of  the  continuation  of  the  retirement  of  the 
Fifth.  Valabregue's  Group  of  two  Reserve  divisions, 
immediately  to  the  right  of  the  British,  had  fallen  back 
south  of  Maubeuge.i  The  XVIII.  Corps  of  the  Fifth  Army, 
next  on  the  right,  had  been  attacked  early,  and  had  fallen 
back  in  good  order  to  a  line  from  Solre  le  Chateau  (about 
ten  miles  south-east  of  Maubeuge)  south-eastward  to 
Clairfayte. 

As  to  the  western  flank,  the  Field-Marshal  had  been 
informed  that  two  French  Reserve  divisions,  the  61st  and 
62nd  (General  Ebener's  Group),  had  been  sent  from  Paris 
to  Arras  to  reinforce  General  d'Amade,  who  would  thus 
have  six  divisions — some  80,000  men,  without  counting 
the  garrison  of  Lille,  25,000 — to  hold  a  line,  some  70  miles 
long,  through  Douai,  Bethune  and  Aire  to  the  sea.  What 
enemy  forces  were  before  d'Amade  was  still  unknown  ; 
but  German  troops — presumably  part  of  the  IV.  Corps — 
had  actually  been  seen  marching  south  between  Valen- 
Map  2.  ciennes  and  Bavai,  and  the  Flying  Corps  in  the  evening 
reported  that  a  large  column  of  two  divisions,  in  all  prob- 
ability the  German  //.  Corps,  moving  west  from  Ath  and 
Grammont,  had  wheeled  southward  at  10  a.m.  at  Laha- 
maide  (5  miles  north-west  of  Ath)  and  Ladeuze  (4  miles 
south  of  Ath)  ;   also  that  at  4.40  p.m.  one  of  these  divisions 

1  For  the  movements  of  this  group,  the  nearest  French  troops  on  the 
right  of  the  B.E.F.,  see  Note  II.  at  end  of  Chapter. 

118 


DIFFICULTIES  OF  THE  RETIREMENT       119 

had  halted  at  Ligne  (3  miles  west  of  Ath)  to  allow  the  25  Aug. 
other  to  pass  it.  Cavalry  was  known  to  be  as  far  west  as  i^i*. 
Tournai.  The  British  Staff  was  informed  that  Cambrai 
had  been  entrenched,  and  would  be  held  by  the  French, 
while  to  the  west  of  Cambrai  the  strong  line  of  the  Sensee 
would  be  occupied.  From  the  small  numbers  available 
and  the  nature  of  d'Amade's  troops,  it  could  not  be  hoped 
that  they  would  keep  off  for  very  long  any  serious  German 
pressure  upon  the  British  western  flank. 

The  British  Commander-in-Chief  judged  from  the 
method  and  direction  of  the  German  attacks  on  the  24th 
that  Kluck  was  endeavouring  not  only  to  turn  the  left 
flank  of  the  British  force,  but  to  press  it  back  on  to  the 
old  fortress  of  Maubeuge,^  which  lay  to  its  right  rear, 
offering  asylum  just  as  Metz  had  presented  its  shelter  to 
the  French  in  1870  during  the  battle  of  Gravelotte.  Sir 
John  French  was  not,  however,  inclined  to  be  thus  tempted, 
and,  as  the  left  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps  was  already  ten 
miles  in  rear  of  the  British  right,  he  decided  to  continue  the 
retreat  on  the  25th  some  fifteen  miles  further,  to  a  position 
in  the  neighbourhood  of  Le  Cateau. 

The  routes  for  this  retirement  of  the  British  Force  Map  3. 
presented  some  difficulty.  Bavai  is  the  crossing  place  of 
two  ancient  highways,  the  Chaussee  Brunehaut,  running 
from  south-east  to  north-west,  and  another,  known  simply 
as  the  Roman  road,  running  from  south-west  to  north-east ; 
in  the  southern  angle  enclosed  between  them  lies  the  Forest 
of  Mormal.  This  was  then  a  compact  and  well-cared- 
for  block  of  woodland,  mostly  oak  and  beech,  with  an 
extreme  length  of  nine  miles  and  an  average  breadth  of 
from  three  to  four.  On  its  western  side  the  Roman  road 
forms  its  boundary  for  some  seven  miles  ;  from  east  to 
west  several  fair  roads,  one  main  road  and  a  railway  cross 
it  ;  in  addition,  the  Bavai — Pont  sur  Sambre  and  the 
Englefontaine — Landrecies  roads  run  respectively  just 
north  and  south  of  it  ;  but  there  is  no  road  through  it 
from  north  to  south  :  the  numerous  forest  tracks  shown  Map  lo. 
on  the  map  were  narrow  and  unmetalled,  or  at  best  had 
only  a  thin  laj^er  of  unrolled  stones  ;  they  had,  however, 
proved  good  going  for  the  divisional  cavalry  of  the  I.  Corps 
in  the  march  northwards.  ^     With  the  uncorrected  maps 

^  This  was  actually  the  case.  Kluck's  orders  for  the  24th  ran  :  "  The 
"  attack  is  to  be  so  carried  out  that  the  enemy  will  be  thrown  back  on 
"  Maubeuge  and  his  retreat  to  the  west  cut  off  "  (Kluck,  p.  45). 

^  See  page  04. 


120  THE  RETREAT 

then  at  the  disposal  of  the  British,  a  commander  might  well 
hesitate  before  involving  his  columns,  with  an  enemy  on 
their  heels,  in  so  large  and  blind  a  mass  of  trees. ^  Just  east 
of  the  forest  runs  the  Sambre,  with  many  loops  and  wind- 
ings, with  a  general  course  south-west  to  north-east,  but 
without,  as  might  have  been  expected,  a  main  road  follow- 
ing the  line  of  its  valley  :  the  Maubeuge — Leval — Lan- 
drecies  road,  the  nearest  to  the  river,  was  from  half  a  mile 
to  two  miles  east  of  it.  Consequently,  if  the  river  were 
crossed  (and  circumstances  dictated  that  it  must  be  crossed 
by  the  I.  Corps  as  close  to  Maubeuge  as  possible),  it  must  be 
recrossed  before  that  corps  could  be  re-united  with  the  II. 
The  situation  presented  to  the  British  Commander-in- 
Chief  was,  through  the  mere  accident  of  topography,  most 
embarrassing.  To  pass  the  whole  of  his  Army  to  the  west 
of  the  forest  would  mean,  practically,  a  flank  march  across 
the  front  of  an  enemy  greatly  superior  in  numbers  and 
already  threatening  his  western  flank  ;  to  pass  entirely  to 
the  east  of  it  was  impossible  owing  to  the  proximity  of 
the  French.  Sir  Douglas  Haig  was  communicated  with 
on  the  subject  of  avoiding  the  forest,  and  at  5.45  p.m.  on 
the  24th  he  wrote  to  the  Commander-in-Chief  that  he 
would  be  able  to  march  at  5  a.m.  on  the  25th  along  the 
roads  near  the  Sambre,  and  therefore  could  leave  the 
Roman  road  to  the  II.  Corps.  He  added  that  his  march 
would  bring  the  head  of  his  corps  as  far  as  Landrecies. 

The  Commander-in-Chief  decided  therefore  to  divide 
the  British  Force,  and  send  the  I.  Corps  east  and  the  II. 
Corps  west  of  the  forest,  and  at  8.25  p.m.  he  issued  orders 
for  the  retirement,  with  a  notification  that  the  exact 
^faps  3  positions  to  be  occupied  at  Le  Cateau  would  be  pointed 
^  ^^-  out  on  the  ground. ^  The  movement  was  to  be  com- 
menced so  that  all  rear  guards  would  be  clear  of  the  Bavai 
— Eth  road  by  5.30  a.m.  on  the  25th.  In  the  G.H.Q. 
operation  orders  the  Roman  road,  Bavai — Montay  (just 
north-west  of  Le  Cateau)  was  made  the  boundary  between 
the  I.  and  II.  Corps  and  assigned  to  the  II.  Corps  ;  thus 
the  I.  Corps  was  responsible  for  the  Forest  of  Mormal. 

^  The  leading  German  corps  avoided  crossing  the  forest  from  north  to 
south.  The  III.  Corps  sent  advanced  guards  by  two  of  the  transverse 
roads  from  west  to  east  to  secure  the  eastern  edge  ;  the  IV.  Corps  also  sent 
a  column  from  west  to  east  by  the  road  south  of  the  forest  to  Landrecies, 
as  will  be  seen.  The  IX.  Corps  crossed  it  with  infinite  precautions  by  the 
main  road  from  Berlaimont  from  east  to  west,  two  days  after  the  battle 
of  Le  Cateau.  The  next  corps  to  the  east,  the  X.  Reserve  (at  Etreux  on  the 
27th),  with  Richthofen's  cavalry  corps,  moved  well  to  the  east  of  the  forest. 

*  Appendix  13. 


SKETCH  6. 


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OPERATION  ORDERS  121 

The  various  orders  for  moving  the  Force  south-west-  25  Atig. 
wards  may  be  summarized  as  follows  : —  i^^'** 

I.  Corps  :  to  move  in  two  columns,  and  billet  in  villages  on  the 

route. 
1st  Division  :  to  cross  the  Sambre  at  Hautmont  and  proceed 

thence    southward    by    Limont    Fontaine,    Ecuelin    and 

Monceau  to  Dompierre  and  villages  beyond. 
2nd  Division  :    to  cross  the  Sambre  at  Pont  sur  Sambre  and 

Berlaimont,  and  billet  in  the  area  from  Leval  south-west 

to  Landrecies. 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  (attached  I.  Corps)  :   to  cover  the  above 

movements,  follow  the  march  of  the  2nd  Division  and 

billet  in  the  area  from  Leval  northward  to  Bachant. 

II.  Corps  :   to  fall  back  west  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal  to  the  line 

Le  Cateau — Caudry — Haucourt,  by  three  roads. 
Cavalry  Division  (with  19th  Brigade  attached)  : 

Two  brigades,  with  II.  Corps  divisional  cavalry  attached, 
under  a  special  commander,  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the 
II.  Corps  ;  two  brigades,  with  the  19th  Brigade,  under 
G.O.C.  Cavalry  Division,  to  guard  the  western  flank. 

In  the  course  of  the  22nd/23rd  the  4th  Division,  having 
been  relieved  of  its  duties  on  the  east  coast  of  Great 
Britain  by  Yeomanry  mounted  brigades,  Territorial  cyclists 
and  other  units,  had  crossed  the  Channel  to  the  ports  of 
Havre,  Rouen  and  Boulogne,  and  by  the  24th  eleven 
battalions  of  infantry  and  one  brigade  of  artillery,  the 
bulk  of  the  combatants,  had  arrived  by  train  at  Le  Cateau 
and  the  neighbouring  stations.  They  were  ordered  to 
move  forward  and  occupy  a  position  at  Solesmes  to  assist 
the  retirement  of  the  II.  Corps.  Major-General  T.  D'O. 
Snow  subsequently  received  orders  to  withdraw,  when  the 
time  should  come,  to  the  left  of  the  II.  Corps  on  the  Le 
Cateau  position. 

In  the  right  centre  of  the  I.  Corps  the  5th  Cavalry  Maps  3 
Brigade,  in  the  early  hours  of  the  25th,  took  over  the  out-  *  i^. 
posts  of  the  2nd  Division  from  La  Longueville  to  Bavai,      ^*^     * 
which  had  been  attacked,  though  not  in  force.     A  troop 
was  sent  out  eastwards  to  gain  touch  with  the  outposts  of 
the  1st  Division,  and  it  ascertained  that  the  French  53rd 
Reserve  Division  was  retiring  upon  Hautmont,  the  very 
place  selected  for  the  1st  Division  to  cross  the  Sambre. 
From  Feignies  to  Hautmont  the  1st  Division  was  confined 
to  a  single,  narrow,  high-banked,  dusty  road,  and  when 
the  river  had  been  passed  at  the  allotted  bridge  the  French 


122  THE  RETREAT 

53rd  Reserve  Division  and  part  of  the  69th  shared  with  it 
the  road  from  Hautmont  to  Dompierre  and  Marbaix.^ 
The  weather  was  extremely  hot,  and  the  march,  broken 
as  it  was  by  constant  checks  owing  to  the  number  of  troops 
on  the  road,  was  greatly  distressing  to  soldiers  already 
much  worn  by  fatigue  and  want  of  sleep.  Otherwise  the 
column  was  little  disturbed,  except  by  occasional  bullets 
Map  9.  from  German  patrols,  and  the  division  reached  its  billets, 
in  a  line  of  villages  west  of  Avesnes  :  the  1st  (Guards) 
Brigade  at  Dompierre,  the  2nd  at  Marbaix,  which  was 
shared  with  the  French  53rd  Reserve  Division,  and  the 
3rd  at  Le  Grand  Fayt. 

The  2nd  Division,  moving  to  Noyelles — Maroilles — 
Landrecies,  south  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal,  on  the  west  of 
the  1st,  had  a  better  road  from  La  Longueville  to  its  bridges 
at  Berlaimont  and  Pont  sur  Sambre ;  the  rear  guard,  sup- 
plied by  the  6th  Brigade,  was  only  followed  by  dismounted 
cavalry  and  but  little  pressed,  although  it  also  encountered 
trouble,  for  Maroilles  was  the  supply  re-filling  point  of  the 
French  53rd  and  69th  Reserve  Divisions  ;  and  no  one 
could  tell  the  British  Staff  which  roads  the  supply  columns 
would  use  after  re-filling.  Moreover,  the  tail  of  General 
Sordet's  cavalry  corps  was  using  the  road  from  Maroilles 
to  Landrecies  on  its  way  to  Le  Cateau,  and  this  meant 
further  congestion.  However,  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade 
duly  reached  Landrecies  about  4  p.m.,  and  the  6th  Brigade 
reached  Maroilles  about  6  p.m.  ;  the  5th  was  detained  till 
evening  to  guard  the  passages  of  the  Sambre  from  Pont 
sur  Sambre  to  Sassegnies  (west  of  Leval)  until  it  could  be 
relieved  by  French  troops,  and  did  not  reach  Noyelles  till 
midnight. 

Sir  Douglas  Haig  soon  after  2  p.m  had  established  his 
headquarters  at  Landrecies,  where  a  message  despatched 
from  G.H.Q.  soon  after  3  p.m.  reached  him  with  the  informa- 
tion that  the  II.  Corps  was  occupying  the  Le  Cateau  position 
from  Caudry  to  Inchy,  including,  temporarily,  the  I.  Corps' 
part  of  Inchy,  and  asking  him  when  he  would  be  able  to 

^  General  Palat,  in  an  article  entitled  "  Le  Marechal  French  et  le 
General  Lanrezac "  in  the  "  Anglo-French  Review,"  November  1919, 
stated  that  the  mistake  was  the  I.  Corps'  and  that  it  got  on  the  roads 
assigned  to  the  Reserve  division  ;  but  no  allotment  of  roads  as  between  the 
British  and  the  French  can  be  traced  before  a  memorandum  dated  10  a.m. 
on  the  26th.  F.O.A.  does  not  mention  the  collisions.  Similar  mishaps  as 
regards  allotment  of  roads  between  Armies  occurred  on  the  German  side, 
according  to  General  Baumgarten-Crusius  in  his  '"  Marneschlacht,"  due  to 
there  being  no  intermediate  commander  between  Supreme  Headquarters 
and  the  Armies,  as  there  was  later  on  in  the  war. 


THE  II.  CORPS  123 

take  his  place  in  a  defensive  line,  which  had  been  partially  25  Aug. 
prepared  by  civil  labour,  from  Inchy  south-eastward  to    i^i'** 
St.  Benin  (If  miles  south  of  Le  Cateau),^     His  answer  was 
urgently  requested,  since  the  orders  for  the  26th  depended 
upon  it. 

General  Haig  realized  that  the  situation  was  serious, 
for,  about  noon,  the  Flying  Corps  had  reported  German 
columns  to  be  closing  on  Bavai.  Meantime,  his  chief 
General  Staff  officer,  Br. -General  J.  E.  Gough,  had  gone  to 
G.H.Q.  and  returned  with  instructions,  in  accordance  with 
which  he  ordered  the  march  of  the  I.  Corps  to  be  resumed 
south-westwards  at  2  a.m.  on  the  26th  :  that  of  the  1st 
Division  to  St.  Martin  (5  miles  south  of  Le  Cateau),  the 
2nd  to  Bazuel  (2  miles  south-east  of  Le  Cateau),  the  whole 
movement  to  be  covered  by  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade. 
Orders,  issued  at  7.30  p.m.  by  G.H.Q.,  were,  however, 
received  subsequently,  and  they  directed  that  the  retire- 
ment was  to  be  continued  a  little  further  and  that  the  I. 
Corps  was  to  go  on  to  Busigny  (7  miles  south-west  of  Le 
Cateau).  The  II.  Corps  (with  the  19th  Brigade),  moving  in 
echelon,  was  to  fall  back  in  the  general  direction  of  La 
Sabliere  (a  wood  just  south  of  Busigny) — Fremont — 
Beaurevois  (3  miles  east  of  Le  Catelet).  The  4th  Division, 
on  the  left  was  to  reach  the  area  Beaurevoir— Le  Catelet. ^ 
The  reason  of  the  change  was  that,  in  view  of  the  reports 
received  of  the  further  retirement  of  the  French  on  his 
right  and  of  the  strength  of  the  enemy  on  his  own  immediate 
front,  Sir  John  French  had  decided  that  he  could  not  stand 
on  the  Le  Cateau  position,  but  must  continue  the  retreat  on 
St.  Quentin  and  Noyon. 

The  II.  Corps  had  made  every  preparation  for  a  very  Maps  3 
early  start  on  the  25th  in  its  retirement  south-west  from  &  i^. 
Bavai  to  the  Le  Cateau  position ;  but  owing  to  the  passage  ^^^*^"  ^' 
of  General  Sordet's  cavalry  corps  from  east  to  west  across 

^  Thus  ran  the  message  to  the  I.  Corps.  The  front  allotted  to  the 
II.  Corps  seems  very  narrow.  But  some  other  message  must  have  been 
sent  to  the  II.  Corps  •  for  the  diary  of  the  latter  for  the  25th  reads,  4.30  p.m., 
"  Halt  orders  issued  [they  are  attached  to  the  diary]  for  the  occupation  of 
"  the  portion  of  the  defensive  position  allotted  to  the  II.  Corps  : 

"  5th  Division,  Montay — Ruemont  road  (inc.)  [this  is  the  Roman 
"  road,  west  of  Le  Cateau,  the  road  which  was  the  II.  Corps  boundary  on 
"  the  25th]  to  Troisvilles  (inc.). 

"  3rd  Division,  Troisvilles — Audencourt — Caudry  (inc.)." 

It  was  a  wider  and  more  suitable  front  than  that  mentioned  in  the 
G.H.Q.  message  to  the  I.  Corps. 

-  Appendix  14. 


124  THE  RETREAT 

its  line  of  retreat,  the  roads  to  the  south  were  blocked, 
and  there  was  much  difficulty  in  getting  the  whole  of 
the  transport  into  motion  by  midnight,  the  hour  fixed  in 
orders.  The  process  was  not,  in  fact,  accomplished  with- 
out the  delay  of  a  full  hour,  with  the  result  that  the  fight- 
ing troops  were  also  that  much  behind  their  time.  The 
5th  Division  was  allotted  the  Roman  road,  immediately 
west  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal ;  the  14th  Brigade  formed 
its  rear  guard.  The  3rd  Division  was  to  march  to  the 
west  of  the  5th  Division  on  two  roads  as  follows  : 

9th  Brigade  via  Gommegnies  (three  miles  north-east  of 
Le  Quesnoy) — Salesches — Vendegies  au  Bois ; 

8th  Brigade  via  Wargnies  le  Petit — Le  Quesnoy — Salesches — 
Viesly  ; 

7th  Brigade,  general  rear  guard. 

The  19th  Brigade  and  the  Cavalry  Division  were  to  move 
still  further  west  by  Villers  Pol,  Ruesnes,  Vertain,  Romeries 
and  Solesmes,  thus  passing  a  couple  of  miles  west  of  Le 
Quesnoy  ;  their  function  was  to  cover  the  rear  and  protect 
the  western  flank  of  the  II.  Corps. 

It  will  be  remembered  that  the  4th  Division  had  been 
ordered  to  occupy  a  position  in  the  vicinity  of  Solesmes  to 
assist  the  retirement  of  the  II.  Corps,  though  not  actually 
under  its  orders.  The  infantry  and  such  of  the  artillery  of  the 
division  as  had  arrived  accordingly  marched  northward 
from  their  detraining  stations  at  1  a.m.  to  carry  out  the 
role  assigned  to  them. 

The  main  body  of  the  5th  Division  moved  off  at  3  a.m., 
but  the  rear  guard  was  obliged  to  push  some  way  north- 
ward towards  Bellignies  (3  miles  north-west  of  Bavai), 
to  cover  the  withdrawal  of  its  guns  from  St.  Waast  through 
Bavai  :  a  flank  march,  though  short,  across  the  enemy's 
front,  which  the  nature  of  the  country  made  inevitable. 
There  was  a  brush  with  German  troops  about  Breaugies 
(just  south  of  Bellignies)  and  a  second  encounter  near 
Bavai,  where  the  guns  of  the  XV.  Brigade  R.F.A.  came 
into  action  with  good  effect.  By  6.30  a.m. — just  one  hour 
late — the  bulk  of  the  rear  guard  had  crossed  the  road 
Bavai — Eth,  when,  dropping  into  the  Roman  road,  it 
was  no  further  troubled  ;  the  Germans  followed  it  up  at 
no  great  distance,  but  never  pressed  the  pursuit. 

Further  to  the  west,  the  main  bodies  of  the  3rd  Division 
moved  off  at  5  a.m.,  the  rear  guard  taking  up  a  line  from 
the  Roman  road  westward  through  Bermeries  to  Wargnies 


RETIREMENT  OF  THE  II.  CORPS  125 

le  Petit,  where  its  left  was  in  touch  with  General  Allenby's  or,  Aug. 
command.  The  ground  on  the  west  flank  of  the  British,  1914. 
over  which  the  Cavalry  Division  was  working,  is  cut  into 
a  series  of  ridges  by  four  streams,  which  flow  in  a  north- 
westerly direction  into  the  Upper  Schelde  between  Bou- 
chain  and  Cambrai.  Across  this  ground  from  north-east  to 
south-west  runs  the  straight  line  of  the  Bavai — Cambrai 
road,  and  from  north  to  south  the  Valenciennes — Solesmes 
— Le  Cateau  road.  The  1st  and  2nd  Cavalry  Brigades 
were  extended  from  Wargnies  beyond  Jenlain,  with  the 
3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  to  their  left  rear  between 
Maresches  and  Preseau,  all  on  the  first  ridge  ;  and  the 
19th  Brigade,  again  to  the  left  rear,  on  the  next  ridge  be- 
tween Sepmeries  and  Querenaing. 

The  operations  which  now  ensued  on  the  west  flank 
may  be  summarized  as  a  running  fight  during  which  the 
Germans  closed  in,  following  the  II.  Corps  and  Cavalry 
Division,  so  that  at  night  their  advanced  troops  were 
practically  in  contact  with  the  British. 

The  7th  Brigade,  the  rear  guard  of  the  3rd  Division, 
began  its  retirement  upon  Le  Quesnoy  without  seeing  any 
sign  of  the  enemy  except  a  few  horsemen  ;  a  reconnais- 
sance pushed  north-west  to  Famars,  on  the  outskirts  of 
Valenciennes,  could  also  find  nothing  of  him.  On  the  other 
hand,  bodies  of  French  Territorial  troops,  belonging  to 
General  d'Amade's  84th  Territorial  Division,  originally  at 
Conde,  were  met  retreating  southward  from  Valenciennes, 
which  indicated  the  evacuation  of  that  town,  and  the 
prospect  of  increasing  pressure  from  the  enemy  on  the  west. 
Reports  from  the  Flying  Corps  pointed  to  the  same  con- 
clusion :  the  head  of  a  very  large  column — apparently  a 
corps  (the  IV.) — had  been  seen  at  Quievrechain  (5  miles 
north-east  of  Valenciennes)  at  7.30  a.m.  Another  column 
of  cavalry  and  guns,  three  miles  in  length  (evidently  two 
regiments,  part  of  the  //.  Corps),  was  moving  south  from 
Somain  (12  miles  west  of  Valenciennes),  and  its  head  had 
reached  Bouchain  (11  miles  south-west  of  Valenciennes)  at 
6  A.M.  Lastly,  between  9  and  10  a.m.  the  cavalry 
rear  guard  reported  that  parties  of  the  enemy,  presumably 
cavalry,  were  on  the  road  between  Haspres  and  Saulzoir 
(9  miles  south  by  west  of  Valenciennes),  and  that  they  had 
passed  along  the  main  road  from  Valenciennes  to  Cambrai 
and  struck  south  from  the  neighbourhood  of  Denain.  The 
British  cavalry  was  in  position,  well  covered,  and  just  keep- 
ing contact  with  the  enemy  ;  but  the  menace  to  the  western 


126  THE  RETREAT 

flank  of  the  force  and  to  the  retreating  French  Territorials 
caused  the  3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  to  be  sent  west- 
wards to  Querenaing  and  beyond  it  to  Verchain,  thus 
covering  the  second  ridge  already  referred  to.  The  1st 
Cavalry  Brigade  also  moved  north  of  them  in  the  same 
direction,  through  Artres  (4  miles  south  of  Valenciennes) 
where  it  was  heavily,  though  ineffectively,  shelled. 

At  the  same  time,  the  19th  Brigade  was  moved  by 
General  Allenby  south-west  over  the  third  ridge  to  Haussy 
in  the  valley  south  of  it.  At  Querenaing  French  gendarmes 
reported  the  information  that  large  German  forces  were 
moving  south-east  from  Bouchain,  and  this  news  was  con- 
firmed by  the  sound  of  heavy  firing  about  Avesnes  le  Sec 
(3  miles  south-east  of  the  last-named  village),  and  only 
four  miles  from  the  19th  Brigade.  The  16th  Lancers  were 
therefore  sent,  about  noon,  to  Haspres  and  Saulzoir  to  help 
the  French  Territorials  ;  but  from  Saulzoir  they  were 
driven  back  by  artillery  fire  and  withdrew  south-eastwards 
to  rejoin  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade.  Meanwhile,  the  2nd 
Cavalry  Brigade,  left  alone  in  the  north,  had  fallen  back 
southward,  not  very  hard  pressed,  first  to  a  line  between 
Villers  Pol  and  Le  Quesnoy,  and  then,  in  succession,  to 
Ruesnes,  Capelle  sur  Ecaillon  and  Vertain,  east  of  the  19th 
Brigade. 

The  troops  of  the  4th  Division  had  been  in  position  since 
5  A.M.  immediately  to  the  south  of  Solesmes  :  the  11th 
Brigade  on  the  right,  on  the  spur  to  the  south-east  of  the 
town  ;  the  10th  Brigade  on  the  left,  near  the  farm  of  Fon- 
taine au  Tertre  (two  miles  south-west  of  Solesmes)  ;  and 
the  12th  Brigade,  in  reserve,  in  rear  at  Viesly.  It  was  of  the 
utmost  importance  that  Solesmes  should  be  strongly  held, 
for  upon  it  the  principal  highways  from  the  north-east,  north 
and  north-west,  all  converged  ;  the  more  so  as,  soon  after 
noon,  a  huge  mass  of  British  transport  was  struggling  to 
pass  through  it  by  roads  which  were  already  seriously 
congested  bv  crowds  of  refugees.  These,  with  every  kind 
of  vehicle  from  six-horse  farm  wagons  to  perambulators, 
everywhere  delayed  the  marching  troops,  and  made  it 
impossible  for  motor  cars  carrying  staff  officers  to  pass  the 
columns. 

The  further  operations  of  the  cavalry  had  all  the  char- 
acteristics of  a  prolonged  rear-guard  action.^     Eventually 

^  General  Allenby's  opponents  on  this  day,  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps, 
spent  the  night  of  the  24th/25th  : — 2nd  and  9lh  Cavalry  Divisions  at 
Marchiennes  (16  miles  north  of  Cambrai  and  about  the  same  distance 


RETIREMENT  OF  THE  CAVALRY  DIVISION    127 

the  1st,  3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  under  increasing  shell  25  Aug. 
fire  from  the  enemy,  fell  back  along  the  third  of  the  ridges  i^^"^- 
between  the  Selle  and  the  Harpies.  The  French  84th 
Territorial  Division  was  found  retreating  southward  across 
this  ridge,  and  liaison  was  arranged  with  it  ;  but  at  one 
time  the  pressure  upon  the  British  cavalry  seemed  so  heavy 
that  the  19th  Brigade  was  brought  up  on  to  the  ridge  from 
Haussy  and  deployed,  in  order  to  relieve  it.  The  Germans, 
however,  were  checked  with  no  great  difficulty  ;  the  19th 
Brigade,  between  2  and  3  p.m.,  then  resumed  its  way  south- 
ward to  Solesmes,  while  the  bulk  of  the  cavalry  and  horse 
artillery,  having  for  the  time-being  shaken  off  the  enemy, 
was  collected  and  massed  to  the  east  of  Vertain  (3  miles 
north-east  of  Solesmes).  Here,  between  3  and  4  p.m.,  they 
were  suddenly  assailed  by  a  storm  of  German  shells  from 
the  north-east  as  well  as  from  the  north  ;  whereupon  the 
Cavalry  Division,  being  cramped  for  space,  moved  across 
country  by  brigades  and  still  smaller  bodies,  after  detailing 
rear  guards  to  cover  the  passage  of  the  infantry  through 
Vertain  and  Solesmes.  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  drew  off 
south-east,  leaving  behind  the  greater  part  of  the  4th 
Hussars  with  instructions  to  gain  touch  with  the  I.  Corps  ; 
part  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  including  its  headquarters, 
took  the  same  route  ;  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  fell  back  to 
the  high  ground  immediately  south-east  of  Solesmes;  the 
4th,  with  other  portions  of  the  Cavalry  Division,  remained 
in  the  vicinity  of  that  town. 

Meanwhile,  the  rear  guard  of  the  3rd  Division  (7th 
Brigade)  was  gradually  coming  in  from  Le  Quesnoy  to 
Solesmes,  and  by  5.45  p.m.  its  head  had  reached  the  point 
where  the  roads  from  Romeries,  Vertain  and  Vendegies 
meet  immediately  to  the  north  of  Solesmes.  There  the 
1/Wiltshire  and  2/South  Lancashire  halted  and  deployed, 
whilst  the  3/Worcestershire  occupied  a  covering  position 
to  the  south  of  Solesmes  between  the  10th  and  11th  Brigades. 
The  2/Irish  Rifles  and  a  section  of  the  41st  Battery,  the  rear 

from  the  British  flank),  and  the  4th  Cavalry  Division  at  Orchies  (4  miles 
north  of  Marchiennes).  The  corps  orders  for  the  25th  were  for  "  an 
"  overtaking  pursuit,"  and  the  divisions  were  given  as  their  respective 
ohjectives  the  three  towns  lying  to  the  south-west,  one  behind  the  other  : 
Le  Cateau,  Solesmes  and  Haspres.  This  line  of  march  brought  them  in 
on  the  flank  of  the  British,  but  too  late  to  be  effective.  It  is  claimed 
that  charges  were  made  against  the  French  Territorials  ;  but,  except  for 
"  a  street  fight  "  in  Haspres,  about  3  p.m.,  "  after  which  the  9th  Cavalry 
Division  spent  the  night  there,"  the  II.  Cavalry  Corps,  according  to  the 
German  records,  employed  only  artillery  fire  against  the  British.  (Poseck, 
pp.  51-55.) 


128  THE  RETREAT 

party  of  the  rear  guard,  having  been  warned  of  strong 
German  forces  moving  on  Le  Quesnoy,  were  following  the 
rest  of  the  7th  Brigade  slowly  on  account  of  the  units  in 
front  taking  every  precaution  and  continually  halting ;  they 
were  at  this  time  at  Pont  a  Pierres,  on  the  main  road,  a  couple 
of  miles  to  the  north-east  of  Romeries.  The  19th  Brigade 
about  the  same  time  was  passing  west  of  Solesmes,  through 
St.  Python,  and  beginning  to  make  its  way  up  the  Selle  valley 
by  Briastre  and  Neuvilly  towards  Le  Cateau.  The  4th 
Cavalry  Brigade,  together  with  the  detachments  of  other 
mounted  troops  near  Solesmes  which  had  joined  it,  fell  back 
by  St.  Python  south-west  upon  Viesly,  soon  after  the  Wilt- 
shire and  South  Lancashire  (7th  Brigade)  had  been  deployed. 
By  6  P.M.,  or  soon  after,  these  two  battalions  were  the  only 
troops  covering  Solesmes,  whilst  the  4th  Division  still  held 
its  original  position  on  the  high  ground  to  the  south  of  that 
town,  with  orders  from  G.H.Q.  to  cover  the  retirement  of 
Map  9.  the  3rd  Division,  Cavalry  Division  and  19th  Brigade. 

The  stifling  heat  of  the  day  had  about  5  p.m.  given  place 
to  a  thunderstorm ;  the  light  therefore  began  to  fail  very 
early  and  the  rain  streamed  down  in  torrents.  Through 
this  downpour,  between  6  and  7  p.m.,  the  remainder  of 
the  3rd  Division,  drenched  to  the  skin,  hungry  and  weary, 
marched  into  their  billets  on  the  Le  Cateau  position  :  the 
8th  Brigade  to  Audencourt  and  the  9th  to  Inchy. 

The  main  body  of  the  5th  Division  came  in  earlier, 

between  3  and  5  p.m.,  on  the  right  of  the  3rd  :    the  13th 

Brigade  between  Le  Cateau  and  Troisvilles,  and  the  15th, 

west  of  it,  to  Troisvilles.     The  march  along  the  Roman 

road  had  been  most  trying,  for  the  sun  beat  fiercely  upon 

the  interminable  length  of  the  straight,  white,  dusty  road, 

and  under  the  tall  trees  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal  there  was 

not  a  breath  of  air  to  relieve  the  stifling  heat.     The  13th 

Brigade  was  delayed  for  some  time  just  outside  Le  Cateau 

to  allow  six  regiments  and  a  cyclist  battalion  of  General 

Sordet's  cavalry  corps  to  pass  under  the  railway  bridge  on 

their  way  westward.     As  soon  as  the  rear  guard,  the  14th 

Brigade,  which  had  been  little  troubled,  came  in  between 

5.30  and  6.30  p.m.,  the  D. C.L.I,  and  half  of  the  East  Surrey  ^ 

were  sent  to  the  east  of  Le  Cateau  to  establish  connection 

with  the  I.  Corps,  while  the  Suffolk  and  the  Manchester 

were  diverted  a  little  westward  to  the  other  side  of  the  Selle 

^  The  two  remaining  companies  under  Major  H.  S.  Tew  had  been  mis- 
directed on  the  evening  of  the  24th,  and  had  spent  the  night  at  Eth,  from 
which  place  they  marched  by  Ruesnes,  Vertain  and  Solesmes  to  Viesly, 
where  they  arrived  between  5  and  G  p.m. 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  129 

valley  astride  the  Roman  road  just  south  of  Montay.     Here,  25  Aug. 
with  two  batteries  of  the  XXVIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.,  they   i^i^- 
entrenched  in  order  to  keep  the  Germans  at  a  distance  upon 
that  side. 

As  darkness  began  to  close  in,  the  7th  Brigade,  the  4th 
Division,  and  half  of  the  Cavalry  Division  were  still  engaged, 
or  in  position  to  engage,  with  the  enemy  near  Solesmes  ;  the 
19th  Brigade  and  the  remainder  of  the  Cavalry  Division 
were  still  far  from  their  halting  places  for  the  night  ;  the 
5th  Division  and  part  of  the  3rd  Division  had,  however, 
reached  their  destinations  on  the  Le  Cateau  position. 
From  front  and  left  flank,  the  Germans  appeared  to  be 
closing  in,  but  at  a  respectful  distance  without  affording  the 
British  the  satisfaction  of  seeing  the  results  of  their  good 
shooting.  It  would  indeed  have  alleviated  the  fatigue  of 
the  men,  tired  out  as  they  were  with  deployments  upon 
rear-guard  positions  which  were  never  attacked,  had  they 
had  more  fighting  ;  but  the  Germans  never  really  came 
within  rifle  shot  and  rarely  gave  even  the  guns  a  target. 

The  air  reports  which  arrived  at  G.H.Q.  during  the  day 
and  were  summarized  in  the  afternoon  gave,  correctly, 
German  columns  near  Bavai  and  Le  Quesnoy,  with  a  third 
between  them  {6th,  7th  and  5th  Divisions),  and  one  entering 
Valenciennes  {8th  Division).  This  information  was  passed 
to  the  two  corps  and  the  Cavalry  Division.  A  later  sum- 
mary made  up  at  night  showed  the  first  three  columns 
further  advanced — the  head  of  one  column  being  half-way 
between  Le  Quesnoy  and  Landrccies — a  great  collection 
of  troops  near  Valenciennes  {IV.  Reserve  Corps  and  3rd 
Division)  and  a  western  flanking  column  (cavalry)  moving 
through  Orchies,  wath  numerous  advanced  parties  to  the 
south.  Some  infantry  was  moving  on  Solesmes.  This 
very  accurate  picture  does  not  seem  to  have  been  com- 
municated to  the  corps  or  divisions,  or  to  the  cavalry. 


NOTE  I 

Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies 
FROM  23rd  to  25th  August  1914 

Until  the  27th  August  inclusive,  the  German  First  and  Second  Map  3. 
Armies  were  both  under  the  orders  of  Bulow,  the  commander  of  the  Sketch  6. 
Second  Army,  and  they  appear  to  have  had  no  other  directions  from 
Supreme  Headquarters  than  those  issued  on  the  18th  August : 

"  The  First  and  Second  Armies,  combined  under  the  command 
'  of  Genera  loberst  von  Biilow,  will  have  their  advanced  guards  across 

VOL.  I  K 


130  THE  RETREAT 

"  the  Brussels — Namur  railway  by  the  20th  August,  when  they 
"  will  wheel  southwards  " — that  is  they  were  to  continue  the  great 
wheel  pivoting  on  Thionville  laid  down  in  the  initial  directions.^ 

On  the  23rd  August,  after  the  battles  of  Charleroi  ^  and  Mons, 
Billow,  in  his  instructions  for  the  24th,  directed  the  First  Army  to 
continue  the  attack  on  the  British  and  "  to  send  the  IX.  Corps  round 
"  the  west  side  of  Maubeuge  as  soon  as  possible,  with  the  //.  Corps 
"  in  echelon  behind  it,  in  order  to  envelop  the  left  flank  of  the  French 
"  Fifth  Army."  This,  he  says,  could  not  be  carried  out  because  the 
British  offered  "  renewed  "  resistance  on  the  24th. 

The  German  Second  Army,  with  Richthofen's  /.  Cavalry  Corps, 
continuing  the  pursuit  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  on  that  day, 
reached  in  the  evening  an  east  and  west  line  between  Dinant  and 
Maubeuge,  and  detailed  the  VII.  Corps,  the  right  of  its  line,  to 
watch  the  south-eastern  side  of  the  French  fortress.  Marwitz's 
II.  Cavalry  Corps  was  sent  towards  Tournai  and  Denain  "  to  attack 
"  the  British  left  flank." 

On  the  25th,  the  First  Army  continued  the  attack  against  the 
British,  hoping  to  envelop  their  left  wing  ;  "  but  the  enemy,  by  a 
"  cleverly  executed  retirement,  evaded  the  First  Army,  in  spite  of 
"  the  latter's  brilliant  marching  performances,"  ^ 

The  Second  Army  continued  the  pursuit  of  the  French,  but  in  a 
south-westerly  direction,  so  that  at  night  the  heads  of  its  four  corps 
were  roughly  on  a  south-east  and  north-west  line  passing  through 
Solre  le  Chateau.  Maubeuge  was  invested  by  the  VII.  Corps  on 
the  south-east  and  by  the  IX.  Corps  (of  the  First  Army)  on  the 
north-west,  and  at  the  suggestion  of  the  First  Army,  a  double 
envelopment  of  the  British  was  to  be  attempted  : 

"  Strong  portions  of  the  14th  Division  were,  if  possible,  to  advance 
"  round  the  south  of  Maubeuge  against  the  rear  of  the  British,  in 
"  the  direction  of  Aulnoye,"  and  "  the  /.  Cavalry  Corps  was  also 
"  ordered  to  push  forward  in  a  westerly  direction  via  Aulnoye  to 
"  hinder  the  retreat  of  the  British."  But  neither  infantry  nor  cavalry 
got  within  a  march  of  Aulnoye  and,  in  any  case,  the  British  were  six 
miles  south  of  that  place  on  the  evening  of  the  25th  August. 

Thus  it  was  that  on  this  day  the  British  were  not  in  contact  with 
the  German  Second  Army  ;  of  their  collision  with  the  First  Army 
the  next  chapter  will  tell. 

The  German  Official  Account  of  this  part  of  the  operations  ends 

as  follows  : — "  Air  reconnaissance  up  to  4  p.m.  gave  the  following 

'  surprising  [and  incomplete]  picture.     '  At  Solre  le  Chateau  and 

'  '  south-west  of  Valenciennes,  artillery  fights  ;    retiring  enemy  of 

'  '  all  arms  on  the  road  Maubeuge — Le  Cateau,  and  on  the  railway 

'  '  alongside  heavy  traffic,  direction  Le  Cateau.'     The  hopes  which 

'  shortly   before   had   been   based   at   Army   Headquarters   on  the 

'  advance  of  the  First  Army  did  not  seem  likely  to  be  fulfilled  ;   it 

'  appeared  that  the  British  had  managed  to  extricate  themselves 

'  from  the  threatening  envelopment  by  the  First  Army  ;  the  artillery 

'  fire  meant  rear-guard  actions."    The  accounts  go  on  to  describe  the 

expectations   derived   from    the    reported   "demoralization   of  the 

French." 

On  tliis  day  General  von  Gallwitz,  who  was  in  charge  of  the 

1  Kluck,  p.  9.  *  See  page  46. 

^  The  movements  of  the  First  Army  are  further  described  on  page  149 
et  seq. 


MOVEMENTS  OF  VALABRfiGUE'S  GROUP    131 

siege  of  Namur  (with  the  Guard  Reserve  and  XI.  Corps,  the  inner  21-25Aug 
flank  corps  of  tlie  Second  and  Third  Armies),  was  able  to  report  that,      1914. 
except  for  a  few  forts  on  the  south-west  front,  the  fortress  was  in  his 
hands.     So  there  was  every  prospect  of  these  corps  becoming  avail- 
able in  the  near  future. 

NOTE  II 

Movements    of    General    Valabregue's    Group    of    Reserve 

DIVISIONS     OF     THE     FRENCH     FiFTH     ArMY,     IMMEDIATELY     ON 
THE    RIGHT    OF   THE    B.E.F. 

The  following  were  the  movements  of  General  Valabregue's 
Group,  21st-25th  August.  They  are  of  interest,  as  this  group  was 
the  nearest  French  formation  of  all  arms  to  the  right  of  the  British 
Forces. 

On  the  22nd  August,  General  Valabregue  still  had  his  head-  Map  3. 
quarters  at  Avesnes  (10  miles  south  of  Maubeuge).  On  the  evening 
of  the  21st,  the  69th  Reserve  Division  commenced  a  movement  north- 
east on  Beaumont  and  Cousolre  (13  miles  and  10  miles  east  of  Mau- 
beuge, respectively).  On  the  22nd  at  9  p.m.  the  group  received 
orders  not  to  go  so  far  east,  but  to  march  northwards  towards  the 
Sambre,  so  as  to  have  its  left  on  the  fortress  of  Maubeuge,  and  its 
right  on  the  road  Solre  sur  Sambre — Beaumont,  facing  north-east. 
Its  march  was  much  impeded  by  the  crowds  of  refugees  on  the  roads. 

On  the  23rd  the  orders  to  the  group  were  slightly  changed  :  it 
was  to  go  further  northwards  and  prevent  the  passage  of  the  Sambre 
near  Solre  sur  Sambre  ;  for  this  purpose  it  was  to  take  up  a  position 
south  of  the  river  between  Montignies  and  the  Bois  de  Jeumont, 
69th  Reserve  Division  on  the  right,  53rd  Reserve  Division  on  the  left, 
headquarters  at  Solre  le  Chateau  (10  miles  south-east  of  Maubeuge). 
These  orders  were  in  course  of  execution,  when  news  came  of  the 
attack  on  the  British  at  Mons.  Towards  5  p.m.  it  also  became 
known  that  the  left  flank  of  the  French  XVIII.  Corps  had  been 
attacked  near  Thuin,  and  that  it  was  necessary  to  support  it.  The 
69th  Reserve  Division  was  then  ordered  north-eastwards  towards 
Thirimont — Bousignies  (both  two  miles  to  the  north  of  Beaumont) 
and  the  53rd,  on  its  left,  towards  Cousolre,  the  result  of  which  was 
to  widen  the  gap  between  the  Group  Valabregue  and  the  British 
Expeditionary  Force. 

On  the  24.th,  after  an  engagement  in  which  the  53rd  Reserve 
Division  took  part,  the  Group  Valabregue  retired,  moving  past  the 
east  and  south  fronts  of  Maubeuge.  On  the  25th  it  continued  its 
retreat  by  Dompierre  to  the  north-west  of  Avesnes.  It  was  thus 
abreast  of  and  in  touch  with  the  British,  in  fact,  as  already  related, 
it  came  into  collision  on  the  roads  with  the  I.  Corps.  The  53rd 
Reserve  Division,  as  will  appear  later,  supported  that  corps  when 
attacked  at  Maroilles. 


CHAPTER  VI 

THE    RETREAT    FROM    MONS    {continued) 
EVENING    AND    NIGHT    OF    THE    25th/26TH    AUGUST    1914 

(Sketches  A,  4  &  6  ;  Maps  3,  9  &  10) 

Maroilles  and  Landrecies  ;    Solesmes 

Sketches  WiTH  the  close  of  day  in  the  I.  Corps  area,  stories  brought 
4  &  6.  })y  refugees  began  to  circulate  in  the  villages  in  which  the 
^^  '  British  were  settling  down,  of  the  approach  of  the  Germans 
towards  Maroilles  and  Landrecies,  near  which  places  lay  the 
two  main  passages  over  the  Sambre  at  the  southern  end 
of  the  Forest  of  Mormal.  Although  Sir  Douglas  Haig  had 
not  had  the  forest  searched,  he  had  taken  precautions 
against  a  hostile  attack  from  it  upon  his  western  flank 
during  his  retreat  :  the  bridge  over  the  Sambre,  which  lies 
to  the  north-west  of  Maroilles  and  carries  the  road  from  Le 
Quesnoy  south-eastward  through  the  forest  by  Locquignol 
to  Maroilles,  was  guarded  by  a  troop  of  the  15th  Hussars : 
another  troop  watched  a  lock  bridge  some  two  miles 
farther  down  the  river.  Infantry  was  to  relieve  the  cavalry 
at  night  :  at  Maroilles  the  passages  of  the  Sambre  were  to 
be  held  by  the  6th  Brigade,  and  those  near  Landrecies  by 
the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade.  On  the  right  of  the  I.  Corps  were 
General  Valabregue's  Reserve  divisions.  From  all  reports, 
the  enemy  was  not  within  striking  distance, ^  and  so  little 
were  the  rumours  believed  that  an  officer  of  the  15th 
Hussars  was  denied  permission  by  the  local  civil  author- 
ities to  destroy  some  wooden  buildings,  which  obstructed 
his  view  near  Maroilles  bridge,  on  the  ground  that  no 
Germans  were  anywhere  near  him.  Suddenly,  about  5.30 
P.M.,  there  was  a  panic  amongst  the  inhabitants  of  Land- 
recies, caused  by  cries  that  the  Germans  were  upon  them. 

^  According  to  the  statements  of  German  officers,  the  enemy  seems  to 
have  been  equally  unaware  of  our  presence  at  Landrecies  and  Maroilles 
(see  page  133,  f.n.  2). 

132 


MAROILLES  AND  LANDRECIES  133 

The  troops  promptly  got  under  arms,  and  two  companies  25  Auy 
of  the  3/Coldstream  took  post  at  the  road-junction  near  the  i^^"*- 
railway  about  half  a  mile  to  the  north-west  of  the  town. 
Mounted  patrols  were  sent  out,  but  without  finding  any 
enemy.  At  Maroilles  half  an  hour  later  (about  6  p.m.) 
German  parties  ^  engaged  the  two  detachments  of  the  15th 
Hussars,  but  were  easily  held  at  bay  for  an  hour,  when  the 
assailants  of  the  road  bridge  brought  up  a  field  gun  and, 
creeping  forward  under  cover  of  the  very  buildings  which 
the  British  officer  had  wished  to  destroy,  compelled  the 
troop  to  fall  back.  As  it  retired  towards  Maroilles,  it  was 
met  by  a  company  of  the  1 /Royal  Berkshire  which  was 
coming  up  in  relief.  The  infantry  took  post  by  the  Rue 
des  Juifs  about  a  mile  to  the  south-east  of  the  bridge.  The 
Germans  challenging  in  French  succeeded  in  enticing  a 
British  officer  forward  and  making  a  prisoner  of  him  ;  but 
they  made  no  further  advance  and  presently  retired. 

In  Maroilles  itself  there  was  for  a  time  such  a  congestion 
of  supply  lorries  and  of  refugees  with  their  vehicles,  that  the 
three  remaining  companies  of  the  Royal  Berkshire  could 
march  off  only  after  considerable  delay  to  the  support  of  the 
company  at  the  Rue  des  Juifs.  When  these  companies  at 
last  came  up,  they  found  that  the  enemy  had  retired,  and 
accordingly  pushed  on  to  recover  the  lost  bridge.  The 
only  access  to  this,  however,  was  by  a  causeway  over 
marshy  ground,  and  the  enemy  having  barricaded  the 
bridge  and  put  his  field  gun  into  position,  the  Royal  Berk- 
shire failed  to  drive  him  from  it.  After  a  total  loss  of 
over  sixty  men,  it  was  decided  to  make  no  further  attempt 
to  recapture  the  bridge  until  daylight,  and  to  be  content 
with  forbidding  advance  along  the  causeway. 

Meanwhile  at  Landrecies  also  there  had  been  fighting, 
the  seriousness  of  which  was  at  the  time  somewhat 
exaggerated.  The  cavalry  patrols  returned  with  the 
report  that  all  was  clear,  and  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade 
was  confirmed  in  its  belief  that  the  alarm  at  5.30  p.m. 
had  been  a  false  one.  Subsequent  events  proved  that 
the  rumour  of  the  near  presence  of  Germans  was  true.^ 

^  The  force  wliich  came  to  Maroilles  was  the  iSth  Regiment  of  the  5th 
Division,  III.  Corps,  the  advanced  guard  of  the  5th  Division.    See  Sketch  6. 

2  The  advanced  guard  of  the  German  7th  Division  (IV.  Corps) — an 
infantry  brigade  (the  14th)  with  a  battery — had  marched  from  Le  Quesnoy 
past  the  south  of  the  forest  towards  Landrecies  for  the  purpose  of  billeting 
there,  entirely  ignorant  of  the  j)resence  of  the  British.  On  discovering  the 
town  was  occupied,  the  vanguard  crept  along  the  hedges  and  corn-stooks, 
and  entrenched  themselves  parallel  to  the  road  not  five  hundred  yards  from 


134  THE  RETREAT 

At  7.30  P.M.  No.  3  Company  of  the  3/Coldstream  was  on 
piquet,  on  the  road,  with  a  machine  gun  upon  each  flank, 
and  wire  entanglements  a  short  distance  ahead.  Wheels 
and  horses  were  heard  approaching  along  the  road  ;  ^  the 
sentry  challenged.  The  challenge  was  answered  in  French  ; 
a  body  of  men  loomed  through  the  darkness,  and  the 
officer  in  command  advanced  to  question  them.  He  was 
answered  always  in  French,  but  in  the  course  of  the  parley 
the  supposed  Frenchmen  edged  themselves  up  closer  to 
the  piquet,  and  then,  suddenly  and  without  the  slightest 
warning,  lowered  their  bayonets  and  charged.  In  the 
first  moment  of  surprise,  they  knocked  down  the  officer, 
seized  the  right-hand  machine  gun  and  dragged  it  ten 
yards,  but  a  few  seconds  later  they  were  swept  away 
by  a  volley  from  the  piquet,  and  the  machine  gun  was 
recovered. 

The  piquet  was  at  once  reinforced  ;  and  the  rest  of  the 
4th  (Guards)  Brigade  turned  out,  the  2/Grenadiers  coming 
up  to  the  support  of  the  Coldstream  along  the  road  from 
the  railway  northwards.  Charge  after  charge  was  made  by 
the  enemy  without  gaining  any  advantage,  and  at  8.30  p.m. 
German  artillery  opened  fire  upon  the  town  and  upon  the 
piquet.  This  fire  was  accurate,  but  the  German  infantry- 
men shot  far  too  high  and  accomplished  little,  until,  having 
by  means  of  incendiary  bombs  set  light  to  some  straw- 
stacks  in  a  farmyard  close  to  the  British,  they  apparently 
realized  for  the  first  time,  by  the  light  of  the  flames,  that 
their  way  was  barred  only  by  a  single  thin  line.^  There- 
upon they  tried,  but  unsuccessfully,  to  enfilade  the  Guards. 
The  engagement  went  on  until  past  midnight  when  a 
howitzer  of  the  60th  Battery  was  hauled  up  by  hand  to 
within  close  range  and  with  its  third  round  silenced  the 
German  guns.  This  seems  to  have  decided  the  issue,  and 
the  enemy  drew  off.     The  losses  of  the  3/Coldstream  were 

the  line  of  the  two  advanced  companies  of  the  3/Coldstreani.  Tliey  even 
loopholed  a  garden  wall  still  closer  to  those  companies.  The  original 
report  that  the  German  force  was  part  of  the  IX.  Corps  appears  to  have 
been  due  to  an  identification  received  by  wireless  from  the  Eiffel  Tower, 
Paris.  For  the  German  movements  on  the  25th  see  Note  I.  at  end  of 
Chapter. 

^  This,  according  to  the  story  of  a  German  general  who  was  present, 
was  the  regimental  transport  which  had  been  ordered  to  trot  past  the 
column  to  get  to  the  billets. 

2  Lance-Corporal  G.  H.  Wyatt,  3rd  Coldstream  Guards,  dashed  at  and 
extinguished  the  burning  straw,  though  the  enemy  was  only  25  yards 
distant.  For  this  and  a  further  act  of  bravery  at  Villcrs  Cotterets  on  1st 
September,  he  received  the  V.C. 


LANDRECIES  135 

one  hundred  and  twenty  ;   those  of  the  Germans,  according  25  Aug. 
to  their  official  casualty  hsts,  were  127.^  1914. 

By  about  4  a.m.  on  the  2Gth,  all  was  again  quiet  on 
the  line  of  the  I.  Corps.  But,  as  it  was  impossible  in  the 
dark  to  discover  the  scope  of  the  attack,  the  information 
sent  back  to  G.H.Q.  from  the  I.  Corps  was  somewhat 
alarming.  At  10  p.m.  there  was  telephoned  "  Attack  heavy 
"from  north-west  can  you  send  help?  "  Thereupon  G.H.Q. 
directed  General  Smith-Dorrien  to  move  to  the  assistance 
of  the  I.  Corps,  at  any  rate  to  send  the  19th  Brigade.  He 
was  forced  to  reply,  "  much  regret  my  troops  are  quite 
"  unable  to  move  to-night.  The  19th  Brigade  could  not 
"  reach  Landrecies  in  a  useful  state."  On  this  being  re- 
peated to  General  Haig,  he  decided  at  12.30  a.m.  on  the 
26th,  after  a  consultation  with  General  Lomax,  to  move 
the  1st  Division  at  6  a.m.  via  Marbaix  and  Grand  Fayt  to 
the  neighbourhood  of  Favril  to  support  the  left  of  the  2nd 
Division.  At  1.35  a.m.  he  reported  to  G.H.Q.,  "  situation 
"  very  critical,"  and  that  he  was  putting  in  every  available 
man  on  his  left.  A  little  later  he  suggested  that  the  troops 
near  Le  Cateau  should  assist  by  advancing  straight  on 
Landrecies.  There  is  at  this  point  a  gap  in  the  records, 
but  it  would  appear  from  what  followed  that  General  Haig 
must  have  been  told  by  Sir  John  French  that,  in  view  of 
the  direction  of  the  enemy's  attack,  he  must  retire  south- 
wards, not  south-west.  At  3.45  a.m.,  the  Commander-in- 
Chief  informed  General  Smith-Dorrien,  "  enemy  appears 
"  to  be  working  round  south  of  Landrecies.  G.O.C.  4th 
"  Brigade  doubts  if  he  can  move  south.  My  orders  of 
"  last  night  [7.30  p.m.]  hold  good  as  far  as  you  and  Snow 
"  [4th  Division]  are  concerned,"  and  he  now  gave  the  II. 
Corps  the  Le  Cateau — Busigny  road,  previously  allotted  to 
the  I.  Corps,  thus  directing  the  latter  more  south  than 
south-west.     Just    before    5    a.m.,    through    the    French 

1  The  following  information  was  obtained  from  Berlin  in  1921  : 

The  German  forces  involved  in  the  fighting  at  Landrecies  consisted  of 
the  14th  Infantry  Brigade  (Major-General  von  Oven)  of  the  IV.  Corps, 
containing  the  27th  and  165th  Regiments,  one  squadron  10th  Hussars, 
and  the  4th  Field  Artillery  Regiment.  Of  these  the  165ih  Regiment  and  three 
batteries  were  only  employed  in  the  later  stages  of  the  fight. 

Casualties  :  27th  Regt. — 1  officer,  32  men  killed,  4  officers,  65  men 
wounded  ;  165th  Regt. — 3  men  wounded,  2  men  missing  ;  10th  Hussars — 
1  man  woui\ded  ;  4th  Field  Artillery  Regt. — 3  officers  and  IG  men  killed; 
total  casualties,  127. 

Further  details  from  the  German  side  of  the  fighting  at  Landrecies  will 
be  found  in  an  article  in  "The  Army  Quarterly"  of  July  1934,  pp.  247-54, 
founded  on  the  history  of  the  27th  Regiment,  which  was  the  chief  par- 
ticipant. 


136  THE  RETREAT 

Mission  at  G.H.Q.,  he  called  on  his  French  neighbours, 
General  Lanrezac  and  General  d'Amade,  and  General 
Sordet  (cavalry  corps)  for  help,  making  clear,  as  will  be 
narrated  under  the  operations  of  the  26th,  that  the  I.  Corps 
was  retiring  south,  if  not  south-eastward.^ 

The  labours  of  the  II.  Corps  lasted  to  as  late  an  hour 
on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th  as  those  of  the  I.  Corps.  All 
through  the  evening  the  stream  of  transport  flowed  slowly 
and  uneasily  through  Solesmes,  and  shortly  before  dark  the 
Germans  closed  more  resolutely  on  the  South  Lancashire 
and  Wiltshire  (7th  Brigade),  the  rear  guard  of  the  3rd 
Division  before  that  town  ;  they  brought  their  artillery 
up  to  close  range,  though  pushing  forward  only  small 
bodies  of  infantry.  When  darkness  fell,  however,  they 
went  into  bivouac. ^     This  enabled  the  two  battalions  to  be 

1  The  messages  sent  off  at  5  a.m.  are  Nos.  630  and  631  in  F.O.A.  i.  (ii.) 
Annexes  i.  The  one  to  General  Lanrezac  runs  (those  to  Generals  d'Amade 
and  to  General  Sordet  are  similar)  : — 

"  The  I.  Corps  was  sharply  attacked  this  night  [night  of  25th/26th]  in 
"  its  cantonments  between  Landrecies  and  Le  Cateaii,  and  is  retreating, 
"  if  it  can,  on  Guise,  southwards  [Guise  is  17  miles  due  south  of  Landrecies] 
"  if  not  south-eastwards  in  the  direction  of  La  Capelle  [15  miles  south-east 
"  of  Landrecies]." 

"  The  cavalry  division,  cantonned  at  Catillon  [5  miles  south-east  of 
"  Le  Cateau]  is  going  to  retire  on  Bohain  ;  the  II.  Corps  and  4th  Division, 
"  cantonned  in  the  zone  Caudry — Le  Cateau,  are  going  to  retire  on  the 
"  line  Le  Catelet — Beaurevoir.  The  next  day,  the  general  movement  of 
"  retreat  will  be  continued  on  Peronne. 

"  In  these  circumstances,  Field-Marshal  French  asks  you  to  help  him 
"  by  receiving  the  I.  Corps  until  it  can  rejoin  the  main  body  of  the  British 
"  forces." 

2  The  action  at  Solesmes  looms  somewhat  large,  as  so  often  in  an 
unsuccessful  fight,  in  the  German  records,  the  title  of  "  The  Battle  of 
"  Solesmes — Le  Cateau  "  being  given  officially  to  the  fighting  on  the  25th 
and  26th.  The  history  of  the  153rd  Regiment  (pp.  51-2)  states  that  the 
regiment,  with  a  battery,  formed  the  advanced  guard  of  the  8th  Division 
marching  south  on  Solesmes.  It  ran  unexpectedly  into  the  British  on  the 
heights  north  of  the  town  about  dusk,  the  divisional  cavalry  not  having 
reported  the  presence  of  any  enemy.  After  a  rapid  deployment,  all  three 
battalions  (only  two  companies  following  in  second  line)  attacked  about 
7  P.M.  ;  but  in  the  dusk,  in  enclosed  country,  confusion  resulted  and,  two 
battalions  of  the  93rd  Regiment  coming  up  on  the  right  (see  page  40  of 
its  history),  the  Germans  fired  on  each  other.  To  stop  this  the  manoeuvre 
bugle  call  of  "The  whole  will  halt "  was  sounded,  followed  by  the  "  Com- 
"  manding  Officers  "  call.  It  was  proposed  to  make  a  bayonet  attack  at 
9  P.M.,  but  this  was  abandoned  on  account  of  the  existence  of  wire  fences, 
and  the  two  regiments  lay  down  where  they  were.  This  was  perhaps 
fortunate  for  them,  for  they  would  have  found  in  Solesmes  only  a  portion 
of  the  72nd  Regiment,  of  the  8th  Division,  which  had  entered  and  settled 
down  in  the  north-west  corner  of  the  town,  without  having  seen  any 
British  ("  Regt.  No.  153,"  p.  52).  Soon  after  this  General  von  Kluck 
himself  had  arrived  in  the  town,  ha\'ing  selected  it  as  his  night  quarters, 
only  to  retire  to  Haussy,  a  couple  of  miles  back.    (Kluck,  p.  55.) 


SOLESMES  137 

withdrawn,  much  scattered,  indeed,  and  with  the  loss  of  25  Aug. 
several  small  detachments  cut  off  by  the  enemy,  but  with-   ^^^'^' 
out  further   mishap.^     The  infantry  of  the  4th  Division 
meanwhile  stood  fast  on  the  heights  immediately  south  of 
Solesmes,  while  the  mass  of  transport  and  troops  disen- 
tangled itself  on  the  roads  leading  south  and  south-east 
upon  Caudry  and  Le  Cateau.     The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade 
(less  the  4th  Hussars),  with  the  headquarters  and  portions 
of  the  2nd,  pushed  on  through  the  congested  streets  of  Le 
Cateau  to  Catillon,  where  it  halted  for  the  night  between 
10  and  11  P.M.     The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  bivouacked  in 
the  fields  south  of  Le  Cateau,  with  the  exception  of  the 
5th  Dragoon  Guards,  which  retired  after  dark  to  Inchy 
and   thence   shortly  before  midnight  to  Troisvilles,  west 
of  Le  Cateau,  their  horses  utterly  exhausted.     The  19th 
Brigade,    together    with    two    companies    of    the    Scots 
Fusiliers  which  had  lost  connection  with  the  rear  guard 
of  the  9th  Brigade,  marched  into  Le  Cateau  at  10  p.m. 
and  bivouacked  in  the  central  square  and  at  the  goods 
station.     The  bulk  of  the  7th  Brigade  retired  to  Caudry ; 
the   41st   Battery  and   the   Irish   Rifles,  the   last   of  the 
rear  guard,  reached  Le  Cateau  about  11  p.m.,  where  they 
waited  until  instructions  were  obtained  by  Colonel  Bird 
from  the  II.  Corps,  and  then  marched  to  Maurois.     There 
they  bivouacked  in  the  grey  dawn  of  the  26th.     At  least 
one  detachment  of  the  Wiltshire,  having  with  some  diffi- 
culty avoided  capture,  also  found  its  way  into  Le  Cateau 
in  the  early  hours  of  the  26th.     The  masses  of  troops, 
guns  and  transport  at  dusk  and  for  many  hours  afterwards 
pressing  through  the  northern  entrance  to  the  town  created 
most  alarming  congestion.     The  British  alone  would  have 
sufficed  to  crowd  it,  but  besides  the  British  a  considerable 
body  of  French  chasseurs  marched  in  from  Valenciennes. 
The  mile  of  road  from  Montay  to  Le  Cateau  falls  very 
steeply  and  becomes  a  defile,  and  here  infantry,  cavalry, 
guns  and  wagons,  in  places  all  three  abreast,  were  jammed 
together  in  what  seemed  irremediable  confusion.     Had  the 
Germans  pushed  on,  even  with  a  small  force  supported  by 
guns,  they  might  have  done  terrible  damage  ;    for  one  or 
two  shells  would  have  sufficed  to  produce  a  complete  block 
on  the  road.  The  rear  parties  of  the  Suffolk  and  Manchester 
(14th  Brigade),  rear  guard  of  the  5th  Division,  had  been 

^  Both  infantry  brigades  of  the  German  8th  Division  {IV.  Corps)  and 
the  4th  Cavalry  Division  had  casualties  at  Solesmes  on  25th  August  (see 
"  Schlachten  und  Gefechte  "). 


138  THE  RETREAT 

withdrawn  at  dusk,  and  there  would  have  been  nothing  to 
stop  an  enterprising  enemy.  The  Germans,  however,  were 
no  less  weary  than  the  British,  and  they  had  also  gained 
sufficient  experience  of  British  rapid  fire  to  make  them 
cautious.  They  had  gone  into  bivouac  here  as  at  Solesmes  ; 
and  though  at  dusk  they  were  in  force  only  five  miles 
away,^  they  left  the  British  free  to  disentangle  themselves 
at  their  leisure.  The  process  was  long  and  tedious,  and 
until  a  late  hour  Viesly  was  as  hopelessly  blocked  as 
Solesmes  had  been. 

Though  the  infantry  of  the  4th  Division  had  been  un- 
molested since  dusk,  except  by  one  or  two  cavalry  patrols 
which  were  quickly  driven  off,  it  was  not  free  to  begin  to 
move  off  until  9  p.m.  During  its  detention  near  Solesmes 
the  remainder  of  its  divisional  artillery,  except  the  heavy 
battery,  had  been  detraining,  and  the  2/Royal  Inniskilling 
Fusihers,  which  had  not  come  up  with  the  12th  Brigade, 
arrived  at  Ligny,  where  it  took  over  guard  of  the  divisional 
transport.  In  view  of  the  flank  march  that  the  division 
would  later  have  to  make  to  its  new  position  on  the  left  of 
the  Le  Cateau  line,  two  companies  of  this  battalion  were 
in  the  afternoon  sent  as  a  western  flank  guard  to  occupy 
Map  10.  Bevillers  and  Beauvois.  A  hasty  reconnaissance  of  the 
new  ground  had  been  made  on  the  24th,  at  the  suggestion 
of  G.H.Q.,  by  Br.-General  J.  A.  L.  Haldane  (10th  Brigade) 
and  Lieut.-Colonel  A.  A.  Montgomery  (G.S.O.  2)  ;  and 
they  selected  a  good  reverse-slope  position,  or,  as  it  was  then 
called,  "  back  position,"  covering  Haucourt. 

At  5  P.M.  the  4th  Division  issued  warning  orders  for  the 
march  to  and  occupation  of  the  position. ^  A  G.H.Q.  altera- 
tion, sent  out  at  6.40  p.m.,  reduced  the  length  of  front  to  be 
held,  and  made  it  from  Fontaine  au  Pire  to  Wambaix,  that 
is  to  say  about  three  miles.  General  Snow's  orders  directed 
that  the  11th  and  12th  Brigades  should  hold  the  front  line, 
with  the  10th  in  reserve  at  Haucourt,  whilst  the  artillery 
should  assemble  at  Ligny. 

The  artiflery  (with  the  exception  of  the  XXXII.  Brigade, 
which  was  with  the  rear  guard)  arrived  fairly  early  in  the 
evening  ;  the  12th  Brigade  moved  off  from  the  heights 
above  Solesmes  soon  after  9  p.m.  ;  the  11th,  an  hour  later, 
before  which  time  the  German  guns  shelled  and  set  on  fire 
the  eastern  portion  of  Briastre  (2  miles  south  of  Solesmes), 

1  The  7th  Division  spent  the  night  in  Bousies,  Fontaine,  and  adjoining 
villages. 

2  Appendix  15. 


SITUATION  AT  NIGHT  139 

at  the  west  corner  of  which  the  brigade  was  assembled,  25  Aug. 
The  10th  Brigade,  which  could  not  move  until  the  3rd  ^^i'*- 
Division  had  got  clear  of  Briastre,  started  at  midnight.  As 
the  three  brigades  marched  off  south-west  rain  was  falling 
heavily  and  the  darkness  was  only  relieved  on  the  northern 
horizon  by  the  red  glow  of  villages  fired  by  the  enemy. 
Instructions  from  G.H.Q.,  received  in  the  afternoon,  in- 
timated that  the  retirement  would  probably  be  continued 
at  7  A.M.  next  morning,  but  it  was  on  the  position  defined 
in  General  Snow's  orders  that  the  troops  of  the  4th  Division 
stood  when  the  first  shots  were  fired  in  the  early  morning 
of  the  26th. 

The  head  of  General  Sordet's  cavalry  corps  had  passed 
through  Ligny,  behind  the  Le  Cateau  position,  in  the  course 
of  the  day,  and  the  corps  bivouacked  for  the  night  near 
Walincourt.  Its  arrival  on  the  western  flank  of  the  British 
was,  perhaps,  the  one  cheerful  feature  in  a  gloomy  situation. 

To  summarize  the  situation :  at  7.30  p.m.  the  British  Map  3. 
Commander-in-Chief,  after  having  established  his  head-  Sketch  g. 
quarters  at  St.  Quentinat  6  p.m.,  had  issued  definite  orders  for 
the  retreat  to  be  continued  ten  to  fifteen  miles  to  the  south- 
west on  the  morrow,^  to  a  line  Busigny — Le  Catelet,  facing 
a  little  west  of  north.  Communications  from  General  Joffre 
admitted  that  his  attempt  at  the  offensive  had  failed,  and 
that  his  intention  was  to  retire  to  the  line  Laon — La  Fere — 
St.  Quentin,  and  from  this  position  to  take  the  offensive 
again.  Later  information  which  arrived  during  the  evening 
was  not  reassuring.  There  seemed  little  time  to  lose.  The 
Germans  were  in  touch  with  the  British  at  several  places, 
and  had  considerable  forces  within  a  few  miles  of  them. 
They  were  known  to  be  pushing  troops  with  all  speed 
towards  the  western  flank  of  the  British,  where  General 
d'Amade's  six  Reserve  and  Territorial  divisions  guarded 
the  long  line  to  the  sea.  The  I.  Corps  had  already  been 
struck  at  Maroilles  and  at  Landrecies,  the  II.  had  been 
engaged  in  a  definite  rear-guard  action  at  Solesmes  ;  and 
it  was  not  difficult  to  guess  what  these  blows  might  portend. 
Sir  Douglas  Haig's  troops  stood  to  arms  all  night,  losing 
the  rest  of  which  they  were  so  much  in  need  ;  and  it  was 
feared  that  the  attack  at  Landrecies  might  mean  that  the 
Germans  were  already  in  force  across  the  southern  end  of 
the  Forest  of  Mormal,  between  Landrecies  and  the  Roman 

^  Page  123  and  Appendix  14. 


140  THE  RETREAT 

road.^  It  will  be  remembered  that  on  the  afternoon  of  the 
25th  General  Haig  had  issued  instructions  for  the  I.  Corps 
to  march  at  2  a.m.  south-westwards  to  the  right  of  the  Le 
Cateau  position. ^  These  orders  he  had  changed  on  receiv- 
ing those  of  the  Field-Marshal  to  continue  on  to  Busigny  ; 
but  the  events  of  the  night  had  caused  him  to  decide,  with  at 
least  Sir  John  French's  knowledge,  to  retreat  southwards 
on  Guise.  For  the  G.O.C.  II.  Corps  a  decision  was  more 
difficult. 

Map  9.  Only  a  sketch  would  give  an  idea  how  the  various  units 

Sketch  6.  of  the  II.  Corps  had  been  jostled  between  the  barrier  of  the 
Forest  of  Mormal,  which  edged  them  away  to  the  west,  and 
the  pressure  of  the  enemy  on  the  western  flank,  which  bore 
them  back  towards  the  east.  To  General  Smith-Dorrien 
the  true  situation  did  not  reveal  itself  until  late  at  night. 
At  10.15  P.M.  he  too  had  issued  orders  for  the  renewal  of  the 
retreat  towards  the  line  La  Sabliere — Beaurevoir  pre- 
scribed by  Sir  John  French's  7.30  p.m.  order  which  he  had 
received  at  9  p.m.  :  the  transport  was  to  start  at  4  a.m.  and 
the  main  bodies  at  7  a.m.^ 

Meantime  the  divisions  of  his  corps,  acting  on  his 
previous  order,  were  in  readiness  on  or  near  the  Le  Cateau 
position  :  the  3rd  Division,  under  orders  issued  at  9.42  p.m., 
was  to  stand  to  arms  at  4  a.m.  and  be  prepared  to  occupy 
the  sections  of  the  position  allotted  in  case  of  attack  ;  two 
and  a  half  infantry  brigades  of  the  5th  Division  were 
bivouacking  on  a  line  across  the  Troisvilles — Le  Cateau 
roads,  with  the  remaining  two  battalions  posted  on  the  high 
ground  north-east  of  Le  Cateau  to  connect  with  the  I.  Corps 
as  originally  arranged.  This  division  had  orders  to  stand 
to  arms  at  3.30  a.m. 

G.H.Q.  orders  for  the  continuance  of  the  retreat,  and 
for  the  Cavalry  Division  to  cover  it  on  the  north  and  west,^ 
did  not  reach  General  Allenby  at  his  headquarters  at 
Beaumont  (on  the  west  side  of  Inchy)  until  after  11  p.m. 
Shortly  after  their  receipt,  Lieut. -Colonel  G.  K.  Ansell  of 
the  5th  Dragoon  Guards  came  in  to  report  that  his  regiment 
and  the  4th  Division  had  safely  withdrawn  from  the  high 
ground  north  of  Viesly,  which  overlooks  Solesmes,  and  that 
the  enemy  was  in  possession  of  it.  Now  it  was  this  high 
ground  and  the  ridges  abreast  of  it  that  the  cavalry  must 
occupy  to  cover  the  initial  stages  of  the  retirement  from  the 

1  The  German  7th  Division  was  there,  with  the  5th  Division  in  rear  of  it. 
2  See  page  123.  *  Appendix  16.  *  Appendix  14. 


GENERAL  SMITH-DORRIEN'S  DECISION     141 

Le  Cateau  position,  and  as  General  Allenby  had  not  suffi-  26  Aug. 
cient  force — in  fact,  only  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade — under  ^^^^• 
his  hand  to  recapture  it,  he  proceeded  at  once  to  General 
Smith-Dorrien's  headquarters  at  Bertry.  There  he  ex- 
plained the  situation,  and  expressed  the  opinion  that,  the 
Germans  being  so  close,  unless  the  troops  of  the  II.  Corps 
and  4th  Division  could  march  "  before  daylight,"  the 
enemy  would  be  upon  them  before  they  could  start,  and 
it  would  be  necessary  to  fight.  General  Smith-Dorricn 
thereupon  at  2  a.m.  sent  for  General  H.  I.  W.  Hamilton, 
commanding  the  3rd  Division,  whose  headquarters  were 
close  at  hand,  and  asked  him  if  it  was  possible  to  get  on 
the  move  during  the  hours  of  darkness.  His  reply  was 
that  many  units  of  the  division  were  only  just  coming  in, 
and  he  did  not  think  that  he  could  get  them  formed  up 
for  retreat  before  9  a.m.  General  Allenby  further  said 
that  his  division  was  too  much  scattered  and  exhausted  to 
be  able  to  give  useful  assistance  in  covering  the  retreat 
next  day.  General  Smith-Dorrien,  after  a  full  discussion 
of  the  situation  with  Generals  Allenby  and  Hamilton, 
reluctantly  came  to  the  decision  that  he  must  stand  his 
ground.  To  do  this  he  must  ask  the  commanders  of  the 
Cavalry  Division  and  of  the  4th  Division  to  place  them- 
selves under  his  orders  ;  with  them  and  with  the  II.  Corps 
— that  is  to  say,  with  the  whole  of  the  British  troops  in  the 
line  from  Catillon  westwards — he  would  strike  the  enemy 
hard,  and,  after  he  had  done  so,  continue  the  retreat. 
Whether  he  could  withdraw  his  troops  after  such  a  stand 
would  depend  on  the  pressure  and  weight  of  the  German 
attack.  Several  German  cavalry  divisions,  and  the  head 
of  a  division  of  the  German  IV.  Corps  were  already  before 
him,  the  British  I.  Corps  had  been  attacked  by  another 
corps,  and  further  forces  were  known  to  be  hurrying  up. 
Much  would  obviously  depend  on  breaking  off  the  action 
before  the  overwhelming  numbers  of  the  enemy  became 
effective.  To  guard  his  flanks  he  had  to  depend  upon  the 
weary  and  sorely  tried  Cavalry  Division,  with  some  possibility 
of  assistance  on  the  western  flank  from  General  Sordet's 
equally  weary  cavalry  corps,  and  on  the  eastern  flank  from 
the  I.  Corps,  should  it  not  be  held  fast  itself.  Help  from 
this  quarter,  however,  appeared  unlikely,  and  indeed  Sir 
Douglas  Haig  had  asked  for  assistance  from  the  II.  Corps. 
The  situation,  in  short,  seemed  to  him  one  that  could 
be  saved  only  by  desperate  measures.  General  Allenby 
promptly  accepted   the  invitation  to  act  under   his  com- 


142  THE  RETREAT 

mand  ;  there  was  no  doubt  that  General  Snow  of  the  4th 
Division  would  do  likewise  when  the  request  reached  him. 

A  lengthy  message  was  despatched  by  II.  Corps  at 
3.30  A.M.  to  G.H.Q.  St.  Quentin,  by  motor  car,  where  it 
was  received  about  5  a.m.,  informing  Sir  John  French  in 
detail  of  the  decision  taken.  At  5  a.m.  another  message 
was  sent  asking  that  General  Sordet  might  be  told  that 
the  II.  Corps  was  not  retiring, 

A  written  reply  to  the  first  message  was  prepared  at 
once,  between  5  and  6  a.m.,  but  it  was  not  sent  until  11.5 
a.m.  as  it  was  found  that  G.H.Q.  could  communicate  with 
the  II.  Corps  by  a  railway  telephone  line.  General  Smith- 
Dorrien  was  accordingly  summoned  from  his  quarters  in 
Bertry  to  the  railway  station,  where,  shortly  after  6  a.m., 
Major-General  H.  H.  Wilson,  the  Sub-Chief  of  the  General 
Staff,  spoke  to  him  and  gave  him  the  gist  of  the  G.H.Q. 
reply.^  Subsequent  to  this  conversation  the  4th  Division 
was  warned  at  6.55  a.m.  by  G.H.Q,  that  the  II.  Corps 
might  not  be  able  to  continue  the  retirement  at  the  time 
arranged,  and  that  it  was  to  cover  Sir  H.  Smith-Dorrien's 
left  flank.  The  written  reply  sent  by  G.H.Q.  to  General 
Smith-Dorrien — despatched  after  a  further  message  had 
come  in  from  the  II.  Corps,  timed  9.10  a.m.,  reporting  that 
Caudry  was  being  heavily  attacked,  but  that  the  7th 
Brigade  was  still  holding  its  own — was  signed  "  C.  in  C," 
and  ran  as  follows  : — 

"  Your  G971  received.  News  from  I.  Corps  reassuring 
"  also  4  divisions  of  French  Territorials  in  area  Cambrai — ■ 
"  Villers — Campeau — Douai — Croisilles.  Thus  left  seems 
"  fairly  secure.  An  intercepted  German  message  says 
"  German  Guard  Cavalry  Division  ^  about  Solesmes  were 
"  asking  for  reinforcements  at  8.25  a.m. 

"  If  you  can  hold  your  ground  the  situation  appears 
"  likely     to     improve.     4th     Division     must     co-operate. 

^  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien  spoke,  "  putting  the  matter  squarely,"  to 
General  Wilson,  who  said  to  him  that  his  "  voice  was  the  first  cheerful 
"  one  he  had  heard  for  days,"  and  "  if  you  stand  to  fight  there  will  be 
"  another  Sedan."  To  this  the  commander  of  the  II.  Corps  replied  that 
"  it  was  impossible  to  break  away  now,  as  the  action  had  already  begun, 
"  and  that  he  could  hear  the  guns  firing  as  he  spoke."  (See  "  Recollections 
"  of  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien  "  in  the  Army  Quarterly,  October  1930,  by 
his  signal  officer,  Br.-General  A.  Hildebrand,  who  accompanied  liim  to  the 
telephone,  and  the  "  Foreword  "  to  "  The  Advance  from  Mons  1914  " 
(translation  of  Bloem's  "  Vormarsch  "),  written  by  Br.-General  Sir  J.  E. 
Edmonds,  to  whom  General  Smith-Dorrien  spoke  on  the  matter  at  2  p.m. 
during  the  battle.) 

^  The  9th  Cavalry  Division  was  near  Solesmes  ;  the  Guard  Cavalry 
Division  was  thirty  miles  further  to  the  east. 


ARRIVAL  OF  THE  4th  DIVISION  143 

"  French  troops  are  taking  offensive  on  right  of  I.  Corps.  20  Aug. 
"  Although  you  are  given  a  free  hand  as  to  method  this   i^^^- 
"  telegram  is  not  intended  to  convey  the  impression  that 
"  I  am  not  as  anxious  for  you  to  carry  out  the  retirement 
"  and  you  must  make  every  endeavour  to  do  so." 

The  die  having  been  cast,  it  remained  only  for  General 
Smith-Dorrien  to  inform  his  subordinates.  As  General 
H.  I.  W.  Hamilton  had  been  present  at  the  conference, 
this  was  easy  as  regards  the  3rd  Division  ;  to  Sir  Charles 
Fergusson  he  went  himself  about  4  a.m.  and  whilst  he  was 
discussing  the  situation  the  commander  of  the  5th  Division 
drew  his  attention  to  the  fact  that  formed  bodies,  the  rear 
guard  (2/R.  Irish  Rifles)  of  the  3rd  Division,  were  still 
coming  in,  dead  beat.  The  actual  orders  to  stand  fast, 
which  were  conveyed  by  two  staff  officers  in  a  motor  car, 
reached  5th  Division  headquarters  shortly  afterwards.  A 
staff  officer  was  sent  to  the  4th  Division,  but  did  not  arrive 
at  Haucourt  until  5  a.m.,  only  a  short  time  before  the 
division  became  engaged.  The  news  that  meanwhile  had 
come  in  to  II.  Corps  headquarters  was  not  reassuring.  At 
2.30  A.M.  General  Smith-Dorrien  heard  that  the  Germans 
had  occupied  Cambrai ;  and  at  3.45  a.m.  that  they  were 
working  round  to  the  south  of  Landrecies.  These  details 
were  neither  of  them  true  ;  but,  true  or  false,  they  could 
not  affect  his  resolution.^ 

Seeing  that  many  of  the  brigades  had  only  lately  come 
in,  it  was  inevitable  that  the  divisional  commanders  should 
have  considerable  difficulty  in  communicating  the  order  to 
stand  fast  to  the  brigadiers,  owing  to  the  uncertainty  of 
their  whereabouts  :  General  Shaw  of  the  9th  Brigade, 
being  in  Beaumont,  received  the  order  through  General 
Allenby  at  3.30  a.m.  ;  the  7th  and  8th  Brigades,  having 
stood  to  arms  at  4  a.m.,  were  actually  on  the  position  and 
improving  trenches  when  fired  on  at  6  a.m.  There  is  no 
record  either  of  the  order  to  continue  the  retirement  at 
7  A.M.,  issued  by  the  II.  Corps  at  10.15  p.m.,  or  of  the 
later  order  not  to  retire,  reaching  them.  Of  the  5th 
Division,  Count  Gleichen  of  the  15th  Brigade,  being 
nearest  to  divisional  headquarters,  heard  at  5  a.m.,  and 
the  other  two  infantry  brigadiers  about  6  a.m. 

We  left  the  4th  Division  hungry,  wet  and  weary  after  Map  9. 
its   hurried  journey  by  night  to  Le  Cateau,   its  equally  Sketch  6. 

^  Actually,  the  French  84th  Territorial  Division  was  in  occui)ation  of 
Cambrai  and  its  northern  approaches. 


144  THE  RETREAT 

hurried  march  to  Solcsmes,  and  a  long  wait  in  position  with- 
out supplies,^  marching  through  the  darkness  to  take 
its  place  on  the  extreme  left  of  General  Smith-Dorrien's 
line  between  Fontaine  au  Pire  and  Wambaix,  with  its 
reserve  at  Haucourt.  The  first  of  the  troops  to  reach  their 
destinatiorL,  about  1  a.m.,  were  the  headquarters  and  two 
companies  of  the  2/Inniskilling  which  had  left  Ligny  shortly 
before  midnight  to  secure  Esnes  (5  miles  south-east  of 
Cambrai).  There  they  found  a  small  party  of  General 
Sordet's  cavalry  which  had  barricaded  the  western  ap- 
proaches to  the  village.  The  two  remaining  companies  of 
the  battalion,  it  will  be  recalled,  had  been  detached  as  a 
flank  guard  to  Beauvois  and  Bevillers  (both  about  four 
miles  north-east  of  Esnes)  on  the  afternoon  of  the  25th. 
Just  after  darkness  fell,  the  outposts  before  Bevillers  were 
suddenly  aware  of  a  troop  of  German  horse,  which  came 
within  thirty  yards  of  them  before  it  was  recognized  to  be 
hostile,  and  was  followed  by  six  motor  lorries  full  of  Jdger. 
The  Inniskillings  opened  rapid  fire,  with  what  effect  could 
not  be  seen,  but  the  enemy  retired  in  haste.  The  two  com- 
panies remained  in  their  positions  until  3  a.m.  when,  by 
order  of  their  brigadier,  they  marched  for  Longsart  (just 
north-west  of  Haucourt).  Meanwhile,  the  advanced  guard 
of  the  12th  Brigade — two  companies  of  the  Essex — which 
had  moved  from  Bethencourt  at  10  p.m.,  reached  Longsart 
about  3.30  a.m.,  and  the  2/Lancashire  Fusiliers  came  in  a 
little  later.  Both  parties  entrenched  themselves  on  the 
plateau  just  to  the  north-west  of  the  hamlet.  The  1 /King's 
Own  reached  the  eastern  end  of  Haucourt  shortly  after 
4  A.M.  and  halted  there.  General  Sordet's  rear  guard  riding 
through  the  village  during  the  halt.  The  two  remaining 
companies  of  the  Essex,  which  had  been  left  at  Bethencourt 
as  rear  guard  under  Lieut. -Colonel  F.  C.  Anley,  remained 
there  until  recalled  at  3  a.m.,  and  then  marched  via  Ligny 
and  Haucourt  to  Esnes,  where  they  arrived  two  hours  later. 
Towards  5  a.m.  the  flank-guard  companies  of  the  Innis- 
killings came  in  to  Longsart.  Thus  by  5  a.m.  the  whole  of 
the  12th  Brigade  had  reached  its  allotted  ground. 

The  11th  Brigade  was  not  so  fortunate  in  reaching  with- 
out mishap  the  position  assigned  to  it.  It  was  about  2.15 
a.m.  before  the  head  of  its  column  arrived  at  Fontaine  au 
Pire,  the  march  having  been  delayed  by  a  serious  block  of 
3rd  Division  transport  at  Viesly,  which  brought  the  brigade 

^  "  Cookers  "  had  not  been  issued  to  the  4th  Division  as  they  had  tc 
the  other  divisions. 


THE  4th  division  145 

to  a  standstill  for  some  time.  The  1 /Hampshire  was  leading,  26  Aug. 
followed  by  the  1/East  Lancashire,  two  companies  of  the  i^i*- 
1/Somerset  L.I.,  the  1/Rifle  Brigade  (one  company  and  a 
platoon  being  with  the  brigade  transport  to  give  assistance), 
the  transport,  and  the  rest  of  the  Somerset  L.I.  as  rear 
guard.  Fontaine  au  Pire  and  Beauvois  north  of  it,  form 
one  long  straggling  village  a  mile  and  a  half  in  length,  and 
it  was  intended,  on  reaching  the  road  fork  near  the  far  end 
of  the  houses,  to  take  the  right  to  Cattenieres,  which  passes 
north  of  the  "  Quarry  ",  called  "  Carriere  "  on  the  French 
1: 80,000  map  then  in  use,  which  marked  the  top  of  the  ridge 
on  which  position  was  to  be  taken.  Not  an  inhabitant 
could  be  found  of  whom  to  make  enquiries,  and  a  mistake 
was  made.  A  street  to  the  right  in  Fontaine  au  Pire,  im- 
mediately before  the  turning  to  Cattenieres,  was  followed, 
and  it  led  out  to  a  mud  track  between  pasture  fields,  with 
barbed  wire  on  either  side  of  it.  The  brigadier,  who  was 
near  the  head  of  the  column,  decided  therefore  to  halt  and 
rest  the  brigade  where  it  stood  and  wait  for  daylight,  the 
two  leading  battalions  being  already  well  down  the  track, 
and  the  rest  of  the  column  in  the  streets  of  the  long  village, 
the  rear  still  in  Beauvois.  The  Rifle  Brigade  was  ordered 
to  furnish  outposts,  and  moved  to  the  open  fields  in  front, 
pushing  out  one  company  down  the  slope  to  cover  the  ground 
between  Beauvois  and  Cattenieres,  The  leading  portion 
of  the  Somerset  L.I.  covered  the  transport  near  the  southern 
end  of  Beauvois.  The  other  units  sought  what  resting 
places  they  could,  some  in  houses,  some  in  fields  recently 
tenanted  by  cattle,  whilst  others  were  lucky  enough  to  find 
corn  in  stooks  on  which  to  bed  down.  The  portion  of  the 
transport  which  had  entered  the  lane  was  in  the  course  of 
time  turned  round  so  that  the  whole  of  it  could  be  got  clear 
by  taking  the  road  from  the  centre  of  Fontaine  au  Pire 
southwards  to  Ligny,  two  and  a  half  miles  away  across  the 
Warnelle  ravine.  The  rear  guard  of  the  Somerset  went 
on  towards  Ligny  to  occupy  a  covering  position  there,  and 
the  detachment  of  the  Rifle  Brigade  with  the  transport, 
which  had  become  rear  guard  and  had  remained  some  time 
at  the  northern  end  of  Beauvois,  rejoined  its  battalion. 

Towards  daylight,  in  accordance  with  custom  at  train- 
ing and  manoeuvres,  the  brigade  stood  to  arms  preparatory 
to  moving  back  to  its  assigned  sector  just  behind  the 
ridge.  In  the  faint  light  of  early  morning  parties  of  the 
Rifle  Brigade  on  outpost  saw  hostile  cavalry  and  artillery 
advancing  from  the  north  on  Cattenieres,  and  almost  im- 

VOL.  I  L 


146  THE  RETREAT 

mediately  the  enemy  opened  an  indiscriminate  and  ineffect- 
ive rifle  fire  from  the  north  and  north-west  backed  by  a  few 
shell.  The  transport  was  at  once  got  on  the  move,  the 
German  skirmishers  who  were  pushing  in  towards  Fontaine 
au  Pire  being  held  off  by  the  cooks  and  brakesmen,  and  by 
the  Somerset.  The  whole  of  it  reached  Ligny  safely,  and 
during  the  day  retired  by  stages  to  Serain  (6  miles  south 
of  Ligny),  where  it  arrived  late  in  the  afternoon. 

As  it  had  grown  light,  about  4  a.m.,  the  senior  officer 
with  the  East  Lancashire  (the  lieutenant-colonel  and  second- 
in-command  having  gone  to  a  brigade  conference),  seeing 
the  exposed  position  of  the  battalion,  drew  it  back,  first  a 
couple  of  hundred  yards  clear  of  the  wire  to  the  open  fields, 
and  then  to  the  ridge.  When  the  Germans  opened  fire  on 
the  transport,  he  formed  his  men  up  in  battle  position, 
with  two  companies  in  reserve.  The  Hampshire  were  also 
moved  back  about  4.30  a.m.,  and  then,  by  Br.-General  A.  G. 
Hunter- Weston's  order,  took  position  on  the  left  of  the 
East  Lancashire,  astride  the  railway  leading  to  Cambrai. 
The  Somerset  L.I.  (half-battalion)  and  the  Rifle  Brigade, 
helped  by  fire  from  the  East  Lancashire,  gradually  fell  back 
fighting,  somewhat  intermixed  in  consequence,  but  with 
the  Rifle  Brigade  mostly  on  the  right  of  the  line,  the  front 
of  the  two  battalions  being  astride  and  to  the  west  of  the 
Ligny — Fontaine  au  Pire  road.  The  half  battalion  of  the 
Somerset  L.I.  was  ordered  back  from  Ligny  to  support  its 
forward  companies  ;  but  on  the  left  there  were  too  many 
troops  in  the  front  line,  and  the  East  Lancashire,  except  one 
company,  were  withdrawn  into  reserve  in  the  hollow  behind 
the  right  centre. 

The  10th  Brigade,  the  last  of  the  troops  of  the  4th 
Division  to  leave  the  Solesmes  position,  also  had  some 
difficulty  in  finding  its  way  in  the  dark  night.  It  moved, 
with  its  transport  leading,  via  Viesly,  Bethencourt  and 
Beauvois,  where  the  head  of  the  column  turned  southwards, 
as  the  11th  Brigade  had  done,  to  Fontaine  au  Pire.  Here 
the  divisional  commander,  who  was  at  the  moment  with 
the  11th  Brigade,  told  Br.-General  Haldane  to  pass  through 
that  brigade  and  to  continue  on  to  Haucourt.  The  11th 
Brigade,  having  already  taken  a  turn  to  the  right,  the  wrong 
one  as  it  happened,  the  10th  Brigade  transport  took  the 
next  turning,  and  at  3.40  a.m.  arrived  at  a  village  whose 
name  it  could  not  discover  until  daylight,  when  a  board 
inside  the  railway  station  revealed  it  as  Cattenieres,  in  front 
of  the  outpost  position   of  the  4th  Division,  as  was  at 


THE  4th  division  147 

once  realized.  Firing  was  already  heard,  and  the  transport  26  Aug 
was  hastily  got  on  the  march  for  Haucourt,  its  tail  being  ^^^*- 
fired  into  shortly  after  it  had  cleared  Cattenieres.  The 
infantry  of  the  brigade — there  was  a  considerable  gap 
between  it  and  the  transport  owing  to  the  latter  moving 
faster — had  not  followed  the  vehicles.  With  the  Seaforth 
as  rear  guard  and  the  R.  Irish  Fusiliers  as  west  flank  guard, 
marching  by  country  tracks  until  Beauvois  was  reached, 
the  column,  after  one  mistake  at  a  turning  near  Beauvois 
— corrected  by  receiving  fire — marched  straight  through 
Fontaine  au  Pire  at  the  first  streak  of  dawn  without  turn- 
ing off,  and  by  4.30  a.m.  had  arrived  at  Haucourt,  where 
the  men  threw  themselves  down  and  slept,  hoping  that, 
being  in  reserve  to  the  division,  they  might  have  a  little  rest. 
A  French  cavalry  patrol  returning  shortly  before  5  a.m. 
reported  that  the  front  was  clear,  but  there  was  no  means 
of  verifying  this  except  by  using  the  horses  of  field  officers 
and  the  Staff,  for  reasons  which  will  appear. 

Thus,  by  5  a.m.  on  the  26th,  the  infantry  of  the  4th 
Division  had  to  all  intents  occupied  the  position  assigned 
to  it  for  the  night  of  the  25th/26th,  with  its  firing  line  near 
the  crest  of  the  ridge,  in  order  to  obtain  a  field  of  fire,  and 
the  rest  under  cover  on  the  short,  sharpish  reverse  slope 
which  falls  to  the  Warnelle  stream  behind  it.  It  was  a  good 
position  for  action,  though  hardly  for  a  rear-guard  action, 
in  view  of  the  long,  gradual  and  exposed  slope  from  the 
stream  up  to  Ligny  which  must  be  crossed  in  retirement. 
On  the  right  there  was  a  gap  of  nearly  two  thousand  yards 
between  the  Rifle  Brigade  and  the  3/Worcestershire  of  the 
3rd  Division  about  Caudry.  There  was  also  a  gap  of 
nearly  three-quarters  of  a  mile  between  the  11th  and  the 
12th  Brigades,  but  the  10th  Brigade,  in  reserve  south  of 
the  Warnelle,  near  Haucourt,  covered  this,  the  R.  Dublin 
Fusiliers  and  R.  Warwickshire  being  east  of  the  village 
and  the  Seaforth  and  R.  Irish  Fusiliers  behind  it.  The 
artillery  was  not  in  battle  position,  as  its  commander,  Br.- 
General  G.  F.  Milne,  was  with  divisional  headquarters  and 
therefore  expected  to  resume  the  retirement  at  7  a.m. 

Though  complete  in  field  artillery  and  infantry,  the 
4th  Division  was  as  yet  without  its  divisional  cavalry  ^  and 

^  A  deplorable  order  had  been  issued  on  the  24th  by  G.H.Q.  with- 
drawmg  the  divisional  squadron  (A  of  the  19th  Hussars)  of  the  5th  Division 
from  it.  With  B  Squadron,  the  divisional  cavalry  of  the  4th  Division, 
which  had  just  arrived,  it  was  sent  to  reinforce  the  Cavalry  Division. 
Thus — one  of  the  two  squadrons  formerly  allotted  to  divisions  having 
been  withdrawn  for  the  same  purpose  early  in  1914 — the  4th  and  5th 


148  THE  RETREAT 

cyclists,  heavy  battery,  engineers,  the  greater  part  of  its  signal 
company,^  train,  ammunition  column  and  field  ambulances. 
Hence  there  were  no  mounted  troops  to  furnish  patrols 
or  covering  parties,  no  60-pdrs.  to  mow  down  the  enemy 
before  deployment  as  was  to  be  done  with  such  striking 
effect  by  the  heavy  battery  of  the  5th  Division  on  the 
right,  no  engineers  to  superintend  working  parties,  very 
limited  means  of  attending  to  wounded,  no  means  of 
removing  them,  and,  above  all,  no  means  of  controlling 
from  divisional  headquarters  the  general  movements  of 
some  fifteen  thousand  men  extended  along  a  front  of  five 
miles,  except  by  the  use  of  mounted  officers  and  orderlies. 
The  ground  on  which  the  4th  Division  lay,  on  the  left  of 
the  British  line,  was  open  fields  under  cultivation,  with 
some  of  the  crops,  notably  beetroot  and  clover,  still  un- 
gathered,  soaked  by  the  rain  of  the  previous  night,  and 
in  many  places  churned  into  deep  mud  by  the  passage  of 
men,  horses,  guns  and  vehicles  ;  over  such  a  surface 
horses,  already  none  too  fresh,  were  soon  exhausted  by  a  few 
hard  gallops. 

The  4th  Division  did  not  receive  the  7.30  p.m.  order  to 
continue  the  retreat  on  Le  Catelet  until  midnight,  when  a 
copy  was  brought  by  Colonel  W.  H.  Bowes  from  G.H.Q. 
Divisional  orders  were  prepared  but  were  not  issued  to 
the  brigades,  for  they  were  all  on  the  move.  At  5  a.m. 
officers  were  sent  out  to   ascertain  the  positions  of  the 

Divisions  were  left  without  trained  '"  eyes,"  except  in  so  far  as  mounted 
officers,  the  cyclist  companies,  and  Yeomanry  detachments  eventually 
sent  to  replace  the  cavalry,  could  furnish  them.  The  absence  of  the 
divisional  cavalry  squadron  was  a  cause  of  heavy  loss  to  the  4th  Division 
on  the  morning  of  Le  Cateau,  as  will  be  seen,  and  hampered  both  divisions 
gravely  in  the  retreat  to  the  Seine  and  the  advance  to  the  Aisne.  The 
other  divisional  troops  (less  the  60-pdr.  battery)  mentioned  in  the  text  as 
being  absent  reached  St.  Quentin  early  on  the  26th,  and  the  O.C.  Signal 
Company  sent  a  message  to  the  4th  Division,  timed  8.10  a.m.,  which 
reached  General  Snow  during  the  morning,  saying  "  detained  here  by 
"  order  of  G.H.Q."  Formed  in  a  column,  under  Lieut. -Colonel  H.  B. 
Jones,  the  C.R.E.  of  the  4th  Division,  these  divisional  troops  were  soon 
after  ordered  by  G.H.Q.  to  retire.  They  waited  south  of  the  Somme  until 
the  main  body  of  the  division  reached  them  on  the  28th.  Half  a  squadron 
North  Irish  Horse  reported  to  4th  Division  headquarters  on  the  evening  of 
the  2.5th,  and  was  sent  to  assist  the  flank  detachment  of  the  R.  Inniskilling 
Fusiliers  at  Bevillers.  During  the  night,  however,  it  lost  touch  of  the 
4th  Division  and  fought  at  Caudry  on  the  26th  with  the  3rd  Division,  not 
returning  to  the  4th  until  late  on  the  28th. 

^  No.  1  Section  (for  divisional  headquarters)  was  absent.  It  contained 
three  cable  detachments  with  telephone  equipment,  motor  cyclists,  push 
cyclists,  mounted  men,  heliographs  and  other  means  of  communication. 
It  formed  the  exchange  centre  of  the  division  for  the  despatch  and  receipt 
of  messages. 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  149 

troops,  and  it  was  intended  to  issue  the  orders  as  soon  as  26  Aug. 
the  officers  reported,  should  the  situation  permit  retire-  i^^'*- 
ment.  It  was  almost  immediately  after  this  that  Captain 
B.  Walcot  arrived  from  General  Smith-Dorrien  to  announce 
his  decision  to  stand  and  to  request  that  the  4th  Division 
would  cover  his  flank.  General  Snow  agreed  to  do  so, 
and  at  5.30  a.m.  sent  messages  to  his  brigades  to  take  up 
the  positions  already  ordered,  and  to  the  11th  Brigade  to 
get  in  touch  with  the  3rd  Division.  Shortly  after  this  the 
officers  who  had  carried  the  order  returned  reporting,  to  use 
the  words  of  one  of  them,  Captain  H.  J.  Elles,  that  the 
infantry  was  already  "  at  it  hammer  and  tongs." 


NOTE  I 

The  Movements  of  the  German  First  Army  on 
THE  25th  August  1914 

General  von  Kluek's  book  and  the  special  sketch-map  for  the  Map  3. 
25th /26th  August  which  he  has  provided   make  it  perfectly  clear  Sketch  (j. 
how  there  came  to  be  collisions  between  the  British  and  the  Germans 
at  Maroilles,  Landrecies  and  Solesmes  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th. 

On  the  evening  of  the  24th  August  he  issued  operation  orders 
in  the  expectation  that  the  British  Army  would  accept  battle  on  the 
line  Maubeuge — Bavai — Valenciennes,  making  his  plans  for  a 
"  Cannae  "  on  a  small  scale.  His  IX.  Corps  was  to  attack  against 
Bavai,  that  is  against  General  Haig,  and  guard  against  any  inter- 
ference from  Maubeuge  ;  the  ///.  Corps  against  St.  Vaast — Wargnies, 
that  is  against  General  Smith-Dorrien  ;  the  IV.  Corps  was  to  envelop 
the  British  western  flank  ;  and  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps  was  to  work 
round  in  rear  of  the  British  and  cut  off  their  retreat  "  westwards." 
He  had  asked  that  a  division  of  the  VII.  Corps  and  the  /.  Cavalry 
Corps  might  be  sent  from  Maubeuge  to  close  on  the  British  right. 
^Vith  the  //.  Corps  only  a  march  in  rear  and  close  to  Conde,  and  the 
IV.  Reserve  Corps  following  on,  "  the  envelopment  of  the  British 
"  Army,  provided  it  stood,  seemed  certain." 

The  First  Army  Staff  appears  to  have  been  considerably  misled 
by  air  reports.  Those  of  the  evening  of  the  24th  and  early  morning 
of  the  25th  gave  "  the  impression  of  a  general  retreat  on  Maubeuge  "  :^ 
columns  were  converging  on  Bavai,  and  the  roads  from  Le  Quesnoy 
to  the  south  and  south-west,  as  well  as  the  main  roads  through  the 
Forest  of  Mormal  were  reported  clear  of  troops.  At  7.15  a.m.  orders 
were  sent  out  by  motor  car  for  the  II.,  III.  and  IV.  Corps  to  wheel 
southwards  on  Aulnoye,  Landrecies  and  Le  Cateau,  and  the  II. 
Cavalry  Corps  to  advance  to  the  area  north-west  of  Guise.  "  It  was 
"  hoped  to  cut  off  the  British  and  then  turn  against  the  left  flank  of 
"  the  French." 

At  9  A.M.,  however,  the  "  surprising  air  report  "  arrived  that 
long  coloums  were  moving  from  Bavai  on  Le  Cateau  by  the  Roman 

1  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  73. 


150  THE  RETREAT 

road  and  that  numerous  small  columns  were  crossing  the  Selle, 
north  and  south  of  Solesmes.  "  The  enemy  was  marching  in  an 
"  almost  opposite  direction  to  what  was  supposed  earlier  in  the 
"  morning."  Fresh  orders  were  rapidly  sent  out  to  attack  the 
British  and  prevent  their  further  retreat  :  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps 
was  to  head  them  off,  the  III.  Corps  to  make  its  right  (west)  column 
stronger,  the  IV.  Corps  to  march  with  its  right  wing  on  Solesmes — • 
Le  Cateau,  with  the  II.  Corps  west  of  it.  The  IX.  Corps  was  to  con- 
tinue opposite  Maubeuge  covering  the  movement. 

In  accordance  with  these  orders,  the  IX.  Corps  wheeled  south- 
Map  9.  eastwards  from  Bavai  and  commenced  investing  Maubeuge.^  The 
///.  Corps,  passing  over  the  old  front  of  Smith-Dorrien's  corps, 
St.  Vaast — Wargnies,  in  two  divisional  columns,  pushed  its  advanced 
guards  through  the  Forest  of  Mormal  south-eastwards  by  the  two 
good  roads  which  lead  to  Berlaimont  and  Maroilles.  At  night  the 
5th  Division  billeted  and  bivouacked  in  the  forest,  along  the  high 
road  Maroilles — Le  Quesnoy,  in  the  area  Hachette  (near  the  bridge 
over  the  Sambre  2  miles  N.N.W.  of  Maroilles) — Locquignol — Joli- 
metz  :  ^  and  the  leading  troops  of  its  advanced  guard  came  in 
contact  with  the  1 /Royal  Berkshire  of  the  6th  Brigade,  as  already 
related.^  The  6th  Division  halted  north  of  the  5th  Division,  with 
half  its  troops  on  either  side  of  the  forest  :  the  11th  Brigade  and  part 
of  the  divisional  troops  in  the  area,  west  of  the  forest,  between 
Villereau — Gommegnies — Amfroipret  and  the  border  of  the  forest  ; 
the  12th  Brigade  and  the  rest  of  the  divisional  troops  in  the  area, 
east  of  the  forest,  La  Grande  Carriere — Aymeries — Berlaimont — 
Sassegnies. 

The  IV.  Corps,  marching  due  south,  also  advanced  in  two 
columns,  one  via  Le  Quesnoy  and  then  past  the  south-west  boundary 
of  the  Forest  of  Mormal  to  Landrecies,  and  the  other  via  Valenciennes 
to  Solesmes.  Thus  they  came  in  contact  with  the  British  2nd  *  and 
3rd  Divisions.  The  II.  Cavalry  Corps  billeted  four  to  eight  miles 
east  of  Cambrai,  around  Avesnes  lez  Aubert. 
Map  3.  Of  the  German  Second  Army,  as  already  noticed,  the  VII.  Corps 
was  detailed  to  invest  the  eastern  side  of  Maubeuge.  The  X.  Reserve 
Corps  was  near  Solre  le  Chateau  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th  August, 
witjfi  the  I.  Cavalry  Corps  on  its  left  near  Sivry,  and  the  X.  Corps 
beyond  it. 

^  There  is  a  good  account  of  the  investment  of  Maubeuge  by  the  IX 
Corps  on  the  25th  August,  the  blocking  of  the  roads,  construction  of 
entanglements,  etc.,  in  Tepp's  "  In  Siegessturm  nach  Paris." 

2  This  information  was  obtained  in  Berlin  in  January  1922. 

3  See  page  133.    The  III.  Battalion  of  the  48th  Regiment  was  in  action 
at  Maroilles  ("  Regt.  No.  48,"  p.  16). 

*  The  following  extract  from  a  book  by  Oberleutnant  Dr.  Lohrisch, 
published  in  1917,  entitled  "  Im  Siegessturm  von  LiJttich  an  die  Marne," 
throws  a  little  light  on  Landrecies.  His  battalion  (7.  of  the  165th  Regiment) 
marched  forward  on  the  25th  via  Le  Quesnoy  to  Bousies  (four  miles 
north-west  of  Landrecies),  where  it  halted  for  the  night.  He  continues  : 
'  Our  advanced  guard  stumbled  on  the  enemy  at  Landrecies,  and  the  //. 
'  and  111.  Battalions,  which  were  billeted  at  Robersart  and  Fontaine  au  Bois 
'  (south-east  of  Bousies),  and  two  of  our  companies  were  sent  forward  in  the 
'  direction  of  the  little  town.  ...  At  5.45  a.m.  (on  the  26th)  the  regiment 
'  was  ordered  to  capture  Landrecies,  as  the  tired  troops  sent  forward  the 
'  night  before,  on  account  of  difficulties  caused  by  the  darkness  and  ignor- 
'  ance  of  the  ground,  had  been  compelled  to  stop  their  operations." 


FIRST  ANTWERP  SORTIE  151 

Thus  it  was  that  on  the  evening  of  the  25th,  the  German  //.  25  Aug. 
Cavalry  Corps  and  IV.  and  III.  Corps  were  close  enough  to  the    1914. 
British  to  be  able  to  strike  in  force  at  Le  Cateau  in  the  early  morning,  j^jg^p  q^ 
whilst  the  IV.  Reserve,  II.,  I.  Cavalry,  X.  Reserve,  and  X.  Corps 
were  within  a  march  of  the  field,  with  parts  of  the  IX.  and  VII.  Corps, 
drawn  from  the  investment  of  Maubeuge,  available  in  case  of  need. 


NOTE  II 

First  Belgian  Sortie  from  Antwerp,  the  24th,  25th 
AND  2Gth  August 

During  the  24th,  25th  and  26th  August  the  Belgian  Army,  in  24-26Aug. 
order  to  assist  the  French  and  British  troops  fighting  on  the  Sambre    1914. 
and  on  the  Mons  canal,  made  a  sortie  against  the  German  corps  Map  2. 
observing  Antwerp,  with  a  view  to  detaining  them  there,  and,  if 
possible,  acting  against  the  German  communications  passing  through 
Louvain  and  Brussels. 

On  the  24th  a  reconnaissance  was  made,  and  on  the  25th  four 
di\isions,  with  a  fifth  division  and  the  cavalry  division  in  reserve, 
attacked  southwards  from  Malines  towards  the  gap  between  Louvain 
and  Brussels.  Good  progress  was  made,  and  the  fight  continued  on 
the  26th,  when  information  from  Paris  of  the  withdrawal  of  the 
French  and  British  forces  having  been  received,  and  also  of  the 
intention  of  General  Joffre  to  resume  the  offensive  at  a  later  date,  it 
was  decided  to  adopt  a  similar  course  and  retire  into  Antwerp. 

As  will  be  seen,  the  second  Belgian  sortie  took  place  during  the 
Battle  of  the  Marne. 


CHAPTER  VII 

THE    BATTLE    OF    LE    CATEAU 26TH   AUGUST 

DAWN    TILL    NOON 

(Sketch  7  ;  Maps  3,  10  &  11) 

The  26th  August,  the  anniversary  of  Crecy,  dawned  hot 
and  misty,  with  some  prospect  that  the  historic  weather 
of  A.D.  1346  would  be  repeated,  and  the  certainty  that 
in  an  almost  similarly  desperate  situation,  the  stout  hearts 
of  our  island  race  would  again  triumph  over  superiority  of 
numbers,  and  rob  the  enemy  of  what  he  considered  an 
easy  prey. 

Although  in  the  first  instance  it  was  the  intention  of 
G.H.Q.  to  occupy  a  position  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Le 
Cateau,  a  subsequent  order  had  directed  the  retreat  to  be 
continued.^  It  was  upon  the  original  understanding,  how- 
ever, and  in  expectation  that  the  I.  Corps  would  be  in  touch 
with  the  right  flank  of  the  II.  Corps,  that  the  disposition 
of  the  troops  on  the  ground  was  made  by  General  Smith- 
Dorrien.  Officers  had  been  sent  ahead  to  reconnoitre  the 
position,  but  most  of  the  units  did  not  come  on  to  it  until 
dark,  and  heavy  rain  had  interfered  with  the  observation 
of  those  which  reached  it  earlier  in  the  day.  Moreover  it 
was  difficult  to  identify  places  by  the  map  ;  for  the  only 
one  then  available  was  the  French  uncontoured  hachurcd 
map  of  the  1  :  80,000  scale,  to  which  British  officers  were 
not  accustomed.  When  the  troops  stood  to  arms  about 
4  A.M.  under  orders  to  continue  the  retreat,  there  was  a 
heavy  ground  mist,  so  that,  though  the  troops  were 
approximately  in  position,  there  was  little  opportunity, 
or  apparent  necessity,  to  rectify  the  line  and  choose  the 
best  ground  to  repel  a  determined  attack  by  superior 
numbers. 

The  town  of  Le  Cateau  lies  deep  in  the  narrow  valley 

^  See  page  123. 
152 


I 


I 


THE  TROOPS  NEAR  LE  CATEAU     153 

of  the  river  Selle,  surrounded  on  all  sides  by  open  culti-  26  Aug. 
vated  country,  with  never  a  fence,  except  in  the  immediate  i^^'*- 
vicinity  of  the  villages,  and  hardly  a  tree,  except  along  the 
chaussecs.  The  river,  though  small,  is  unfordable.  The 
heights  on  the  east,  crescent  shaped,  slightly  overlook  those 
on  the  west,  the  highest  ground  of  which  is  roughly  a  — j 
in  plan  :  the  head  (the  Reumont  ridge),  running  north 
to  south,  from  Viesly  to  Reumont,  and  the  stalk  (the  Le 
Cateau  position  or  Caudry  ridge)  east  to  west  from  Le 
Cateau  to  Crevecoeur.  The  reverse  or  south  side  of  the 
Caudry  ridge  drops  sharply  to  the  Warnelle  stream,  with 
higher  undulating  country  behind  it,  dotted  with  villages 
and  woods,  admirably  suited  to  cover  a  retirement,  once 
the  long  slope  from  the  stream  up  to  the  edge  of  the 
higher  ground  marked  by  Montigny  and  Ligny  had  been 
passed.  The  front  or  north  side  is  broken  by  a  succession 
of  long  spurs  running  northwards  ;  the  western  end  drops 
to  the  Schelde  canal. 

Except  for  this  canal  with  its  accompanying  stream, 
and  the  Selle  river  with  its  tributary  the  Rivierette  des 
Essarts,  the  country  was  free  for  the  movement  of  troops 
of  all  arms,  and,  from  its  open  character,  generally  suited 
to  defensive  action,  though  there  were  numerous  small 
valleys  up  which  enterprising  and  well-trained  infantry 
could  approach  unseen.  Beetroot  and  clover  covered 
part  of  the  ground,  but  the  other  crops  had  mostly  been 
cut  and  partly  harvested.  Here  and  there  were  lines  of 
cattle,  picketed  Flemish  fashion,  in  the  forage  patches. 
Crops  had  been  held  so  sacred  at  British  manceuvres  that 
there  was  occasionally  hesitation  before  troops,  particularly 
mounted  troops,  would  move  across  them. 

The  town  of  Le  Cateau  on  the  right  of  the  line  of  the 
II.  Corps  was  at  4.40  a.m.  still  full  of  British  transport, 
though  the  long  columns,  after  protracted  delay  owing 
to  the  passage  of  General  Sordet's  cavalry  corps  across 
them,  had  for  hours  been  pushing  south-westwards  along 
the  Roman  road.  The  19th  Brigade,  placed  under  the 
II.  Corps  by  G.H.Q.  orders  of  the  previous  night,  had  not 
yet  received  any  message  postponing  the  retreat,  as  its 
headquarters  could  not  be  found  in  the  dark  ;  it  was 
delayed  nearly  two  hours  in  starting  by  the  congestion  in 
the  streets,  and  had  hardly  got  clear — ^  being  the  last 
troops  to  leave  the  town — when  shortly  after  6  a.m.  the  Map  il 
first  German  scouts  made  their  appearance  in  Le  Cateau. 
There  was  some  firing,  but  the  scouts  were  easily  kept  at  a 


154  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

distance,  and  the  brigade  eventually  pursued  its  march  to 
Reumont  with  hardly  a  casualty.  The  1/D. C.L.I,  and  half 
of  the  1/East  Surrey  (14th  Brigade),  which  had  bivouacked 
on  the  heights  to  the  east  of  Le  Cateau,  and  had  likewise 
received  no  orders  to  stand  fast,  were  at  this  time  formed 
up  in  column  of  route  by  the  railway  bridge  near  the  south- 
eastern corner  of  the  town,  facing  west  and  ready  to  march 
off  at  6.30  A.M.  The  remainder  of  the  14th  Brigade  had 
meanwhile  occupied  a  position  immediately  to  the  west  of 
Le  Cateau  :  the  Suffolk  across  the  centre  of  the  spur— 
which  for  convenience  may  be  called  the  Montay  spur — 
which  runs  from  the  Reumont  ridge  north-eastward  to 
Montay,  the  remaining  one  and  a  half  battalions  south  of 
them.  Next  to  the  14th  Brigade,  but  separated  from  it  by 
a  small  valley  between  spurs,  came  the  K.O.Y.L.I.  of  the 
13th  Brigade,  with  the  XV.  Brigade  R.F.A.  and  the  37th 
Howitzer  Battery  in  close  support  on  the  right,  and  the 
XXVIII,  Brigade  R.F.A.  in  close  support  on  the  left. 
West  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I.,  the  Scottish  Borderers  of  the  same 
brigade  occupied  the  next  ridge  of  rising  ground  ;  and  west 
of  them  again,  the  15th  Brigade  prolonged  the  line  to  the 
road  that  leads  from  Troisvilles  to  Inchy,  with  the  XXVII. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  in  rear  of  it  to  the  east  and  south-east  of 
Troisvilles.  Of  the  rest  of  the  artillery  of  the  5th  Division, 
the  61st  Howitzer  Battery  and  108th  Heavy  Battery  took 
up  positions  of  observation  about  a  mile  to  the  north  of 
Reumont,  while  the  65th  Howitzer  Battery  unlimbered  to 
the  south-west  of  Troisvilles.  In  reserve  near  Reumont 
was  the  19th  Brigade,  as  orders  to  halt  there  reached  it 
soon  after  it  left  Le  Cateau. 

The  battalions  of  the  14th  Brigade  which  lay  west  of 
Le  Cateau  did  not  receive  their  counter-orders  to  stand  fast 
until  about  6  a.m.  ;  those  to  the  east  of  the  town  never  re- 
ceived them  at  all.  Hence  the  5th  Division  was  in  a  manner 
surprised,  and  compelled  to  accept  battle  in  positions  which 
were  being  held  with  a  view  to  slipping  away  under  cover 
of  rear  guards.  The  Suffolk  in  particular,  who  lay  im- 
mediately to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau,  were  badly  placed  for 
a  general  action  :  there  was  much  dead  ground  on  every 
side  ;  the  field  of  fire  was  for  the  most  part  limited  and 
could  nowhere  be  called  really  good;  while  small  valleys  and 
sunken  roads  at  sundry  points  gave  hostile  infantry  every 
opportunity  of  concealing  their  approach.  The  battalion, 
in  common  with  the  other  troops  of  the  5th  Division,  made 
shift  to  throw  up  such  entrenchments  as  it  could  with  its 


THE  3rd  division  155 

"  grubbers,"     no     better    tools     being     obtainable.     The  26  Aug. 
XXVII.   R.F.A.   had   time  to  dig   in    its  batteries;    the   ^^i^- 
XV.  Brigade  for  the  most  part  had  to  be  content  to  mask 
its  guns  with  corn-sheaves. 

But  the  serious  difficulties  in  which  the  5th  Division 
became  involved  during  the  action  of  the  26th  August 
arose  not  so  much  from  the  lack  of  preparation  of  the 
position,  as  from  the  belief  that  the  I.  Corps  would  be  on 
its  right,  and  hold  the  high  ground  east  of  Le  Cateau, 
whence  an  enemy  could  rake  a  considerable  portion  of  the 
line.  The  risk  that  this  ground  would  fall  into  German 
hands  had  to  be  accepted  by  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien 
when,  late  indeed  but  as  early  as  in  the  circumstances  it 
was  possible  to  come  to  a  decision,  he  resolved  to  stand  and 
fight. 

Passing  to  the  dispositions  of  the  3rd  Division,  the  9th 
Brigade  took  up  the  line  from  Troisvilles  westward  to 
Audencourt.  The  brigadier,  as  has  been  told,  had  received 
timely  notice  of  General  Smith-Dorrien's  intentions  and, 
bringing  his  battalions  early  into  position,  enabled  them 
to  improve  some  mathematically  straight  trenches  which 
had  been  hastily  begun  by  French  civilians,  and  to  dig 
themselves  fair  shelter.  The  XXIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  was 
in  close  support  on  the  reverse  side  of  the  ridge,  with  two 
sections  dug  in  on  the  forward  slope,  one  of  the  107th 
Battery  to  the  right  front,  and  one  of  the  108th  Battery 
on  the  left  rear  of  the  Lincolnshire,  the  left  of  the  brigade. 
About  a  thousand  yards  to  the  south  of  these  batteries  was 
the  65th  Howitzer  Battery  (5th  Division),  and  about  five 
hundred  yards  to  the  west  of  them  the  48th  Heavy  Battery. 

Next  on  the  left  of  the  9th  Brigade  stood  the  8th  Brigade, 
holding  Audencourt  and  the  ground  thence  westward  to 
Caudry.  This  brigade  also  was  partly  dug  in,  having  taken 
in  hand  at  dawn  the  work  of  improving  and  extending  some 
trenches  made  by  French  civilians. 

The  7th  Brigade  occupied  Caudry  and  its  vicinity. 
The  right  of  the  position  along  the  ridge  to  the  north-east 
of  the  town  was  held  by  the  1 /Wiltshire  ;  an  enclosure  near 
Point  129,  just  north  of  the  town,  by  the  2/South  Lancashire 
and  the  56th  Field  Company  R.E.  ;  and  the  remainder  of 
the  line  along  the  north  and  north-western  outskirts  by  the 
3/Worcestershire.  The  battalions  of  the  7th  Brigade  were 
very  weak,  many  men  having  lost  their  way  in  the  dark 
during  the  retirement  from  Solesmes.  The  Irish  Rifles, 
indeed,  had  not  yet  rejoined,  being  still  at  Maurois  with  the 


156  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

41st  Battery.     A  divisional  reserve  was  formed  of  men 
collected  from  first  line  transport,  signal  sections,  etc. 

Of  the  rest  of  the  3rd  Division  artillery,  the  XL.  Brigade 
R.F.A.  was  in  readiness  south-west  of  Audencourt  ;  two 
batteries  of  the  XLII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  at  the  north-eastern 
corner  of  Caudry  ;  a  section  of  I  Battery  R.H.A.  (of  the 
Cavalry  Division)  at  the  north-western  corner  ;  and  the 
XXX.  Howitzer  Brigade  just  south  of  the  buildings  of 
Caudry  facing  north-west.  Speaking  generally,  the  3rd 
Division  was  better  posted  and  more  fully  prepared  for 
action  than  either  the  5th  Division  on  its  right  or  the  4th 
on  its  left,  having  received  earlier  warning  of  what  was 
expected  of  it. 

Between  Caudry  and  Fontaine  au  Pire  there  was  a  gap  ; 
this,  however,  was  of  no  importance,  since  it  could  be  swept 
by  crossfire  from  the  two  villages  ;  and  at  Fontaine  au 
Pire  itself  the  rear  guard  of  the  11th  Brigade  was  still 
bickering  with  the  advanced  parties  of  the  enemy.  Its 
main  body,  as  already  described,  was  aligned  from  the  east 
of  the  "  Quarry  "  south-west  towards  the  Warnelle  ravine  ; 
and  by  this  time  the  King's  Own  had  crossed  the  ravine 
from  Haucourt,  and  was  halted  in  mass  near  the  cross  roads 
five  hundred  yards  north-east  of  Longsart,  thus  filling  the 
gap  between  the  11th  and  12th  Brigades. 

In  reserve  to  General  Smith-Dorrien's  force  there  were 
nominally  the  Cavalry  Division  and  the  19th  Brigade  ; 
orders  were  issued  for  the  2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  to 
proceed  to  Bazuel  and  Mazinghien  (2  miles  east  by  south 
and  4  miles  south-east  of  Le  Cateau  respectively),  to  guard 
the  right  flank  ;  whilst  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  was  to  take 
post  at  Escaufourt,  about  four  miles  south-west  of  Le 
Cateau.  The  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  which  had  moved  at 
midnight  to  Inchy,  fell  back  to  Ligny,  as  desired,  at  dawn. 
But  the  orders  to  the  cavalry  were  for  the  most  part  difficult 
to  execute,  for  only  the  3rd  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigades  were 
more  or  less  complete  and  concentrated,  and  they  were  at 
opposite  ends  of  the  line.  As  it  happened,  however,  part  of 
the  1st  and  2nd  Cavalry  Brigades,  as  well  as  the  3rd  Brigade, 
were  in  the  vicinity  of  Le  Cateau  and  thus,  it  was  hoped, 
available  to  cover  the  gap  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps. 

Very  soon  after  6  a.m.,  while  the  morning  mist  was 
still  thick,  about  a  dozen  German  batteries  opened  fire 
from  the  vicinity  of  Forest  (3  miles  N.N.E.  of  Le  Cateau)  ^ 
1  These  were  batteries  of  the  7th  Division. 


THE  RIGHT  OF  THE  LINE  157 

upon  the  troops  immediately  west  of  Le  Cateau,  thereby  26  Aug. 
putting  a  stop  to  entrenching  except  so  far  as  it  could  be  i^^'*' 
carried  on  by  the  men  lying  down,  with  their  "  grubbers."  ^ 
The  Duke  of  Cornwall's  L.I.  and  two  companies  of  the 
East  Surrey  were,  as  mentioned,  waiting  in  column  of 
route  in  Le  Cateau,  by  the  railway  bridge  in  the  Faubourg 
de  Landrecies  when,  at  6.30  a.m.,  exactly  the  time  that 
they  should  have  moved  off,  rifle  fire  was  opened  upon 
them  from  the  windows  of  the  neighbouring  houses. ^ 
Several  men  fell  ;  but  the  detachment,  under  the  covering 
fire  of  the  signal  section  and  some  of  the  headquarters  of 
the  14th  Brigade,  was  rapidly  led  back  through  a  succes- 
sion of  wire  fences  to  the  high  ground  above  the  south- 
eastern corner  of  Le  Cateau.  Here  the  six  companies 
formed  a  firing  line,  north  and  south,  athwart  the  cross 
roads  just  to  the  south  of  the  Faubourg  de  France.  How 
the  Germans  had  contrived  to  reach  the  south-eastern  out- 
skirts of  Le  Cateau  without  being  seen,  is  unknown  ;  ^  but 
the  fact  remains  that,  when  the  action  opened,  the  Germans 
were  in  the  town  on  the  flank  of  the  II.  Corps,  with  every 
prospect  of  cutting  off  the  detachment  of  the  14th  Brigade 
which  lay  on  the  east  of  the  town,  and  of  pouring  through 
the  gap  between  the  I.  and  11.  Corps.  They  lost  no  time, 
in  fact,  in  following  up  that  detachment,  which,  however, 
under  cover  of  a  counter-attack  by  the  half-battalion  of 
the  East  Surrey,  fell  back  south-east  by  successive  com- 
panies along  the  road  towards  Bazuel,  repelling  simul- 
taneous attacks  against  its  front  and  its  right  flank.  A 
mile  from  Bazuel  portions  of  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade, 
followed  by  the  5th  Lancers  of  the  3rd  with  D  Battery, 
came  to  its  help ;  *  with  their  support  the  D.C.L.I.  and 

1  A  Note  on  the  German  plans  for  the  26th  is  given  at  end  of  this 
Chapter.  Some  account  of  the  battle  from  the  German  side  wll  be  found 
in  a  Note  at  end  of  Chapter  IX. 

2  The  account  in  the  history  (pp.  63-72)  of  the  72nd  Regiment,  which 
was  concerned,  is  rather  different.  As  advanced  guard  of  the  8th  Division, 
it  started  early  from  Solesmes  ;  on  the  "  point  "  nearing  Le  Cateau  a 
cavalry  officer,  sent  on  ahead,  galloped  back,  wounded  in  the  arm,  shouting 
"  the  exits  are  occupied."  Pushing  on,  the  leading  half-battalion  was 
fired  on  from  houses  and  the  railway  embankment.  Fire  was  opened  on 
a  train  which  was  leaving  the  station,  which  the  regiment  heard  from 
prisoners  contained  "  higher  Staffs  and  probably  General  French."  In  the 
course  of  the  battle  the  72nd  was  cut  off  from  its  division  by  the  advance 
of  the  7th  Division  into  the  gap  between  them. 

'  The  5th  Division  had  been  deprived  of  its  divisional  squadron  two 
days  before,  but  still  had  a  cyclist  company  for  patrolling.  See  page  147, 
f.n.  1. 

*  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  was  proceeding  to  St.  Souplet.     See  below. 


158  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

East  Surrey  soon  after  8  a.m.  began  to  move  westward  to 
rejoin  their  brigade.  The  Germans,  favoured  by  the  mist, 
had  by  this  time  worked  up  the  valley  of  the  Selle  south- 
ward from  Le  Cateau,  for  about  a  mile,  with  no  very  clear 
idea,  probably,  of  what  was  going  forward,  when  they  were 
caught  by  the  counter-attack  on  their  eastern  flank,  and 
retired  to  the  south  edge  of  Le  Cateau. ^ 

Meanwhile  fresh  German  batteries  ^  had  opened  fire 
from  a  concealed  position  near  Rambourlieux  Farm  (2 
miles  W.N.W.  of  Le  Cateau)  against  the  troops  between 
Le  Cateau  and  the  Roman  road,  now  the  right  of  the 
British  hne,  and  practically  enfiladed  the  whole  of  them 
with  most  destructive  effect.  The  British  guns  replied  as 
well  as  they  could  with  nothing  but  the  flashes  to  guide 
them  ;  for,  though  the  German  aeroplanes  were  active  in 
this  quarter  of  the  field,  British  machines  were  not  em- 
ployed in  aid  of  the  artillery.  The  infantry,  having  no 
targets  as  yet,  was  obliged  to  endvire  the  bombardment 
passively,  though  comparatively  early  in  the  day — that  is 
to  say,  soon  after  8  a.m. — German  skirmishers  climbed  to 
Point  150  on  the  summit  of  the  Montay  spur,  and  began 
firing  at  the  British  gunners.  Upon  these,  and  also  upon 
a  concealed  German  machine  gun  on  the  Cambrai  road  the 
left  company  of  the  Suffolk  opened  fire  ;  but  there  was 
some  doubt  as  to  the  situation,  for  it  never  occurred  to 
any  of  the  officers  that  the  high  ground  immediately  to 
the  east  and  west  of  Le  Cateau  would  be  left  open  for 
occupation  by  the  enemy.  Of  the  fight  that  was  going 
forward  in  the  valley  of  the  Selle  they  could  see  nothing 
nor,  in  the  roar  of  the  battle,  hear  anything. 

The  D. C.L.I,  and  the  East  Surrey  were,  as  a  matter  of 
fact,  progressing  slowly  but  steadily  westward  in  spite  of 
considerable  opposition  ;  although  two  companies  of  the 
former  became  separated  from  the  rest  of  the  detachment 
and  losing  touch  turned  to  the  south-west  upon  St.  Benin. 
Some  confusion  was  caused  during  the  movement  by  the 
presence  of  Germans  dressed  in  what  appeared  to  be 
khaki, ^  which  more  than  once  misled  the  battalions  as  to  the 
action  they  should  take  in  order  to  rejoin  their  division. 
However,  D  Battery  and  the  southern  half-battalion  of 
the  D. C.L.I,  succeeded   in   enfilading  the  German  troops 

1  Where  they  remained  until  the  7th  Division  came  into  action  on  their 
left.     (G.O.A.,  i.  p.  520.) 

-  Of  the  8th  Division. 

^  Probably  Jdger,  who  wore  a  uniform  of  greenish-grey  hue,  and 
shakoes,  not  spiked  helmets. 


THE  RIGHT  OF  THE  LINE  159 

in  the  valley,  and  the  enemy  withdrew  to  the  eastward,  to  26  Aug. 
all  appearances  pretty  severely  punished.  The  greater  ^^i'^- 
number  of  the  D. C.L.I,  and  East  Surrey  then  moved  south- 
west on  Escaufourt,  though  one  party,  while  still  500 
yards  short  of  St.  Benin,  turned  westward,  and  made  for 
Reumont,  where  5th  Division  headquarters  were  estab- 
lished. The  bulk  of  the  D. C.L.I,  arrived  at  Escaufourt 
between  11  a.m.  and  noon,  and  found  that  they  had  cut 
their  way  through  the  Germans  at  the  comparatively  small 
cost  of  two  hundred  casualties,  and  this  number  in  the 
course  of  the  following  days  was  reduced  to  one-half  by 
the  return  of  missing  men.  The  half-battalion  of  the  East 
Surrey  made  its  way  to  Maurois,  beyond  Reumont  and 
the  1st  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  retired  with  great  de- 
liberation due  south  up  the  valley  towards  St.  Souplet. 
The  first  turning  movement  of  the  Germans  on  the  eastern 
flank — attempted,  it  is  true,  in  no  great  strength — had  thus 
been  foiled. 

During  this  period  the  troubles  of  the  troops  immedi- 
ately to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau  were  increasing.  About  10 
A.M.  the  Germans  brought  guns  up  to  the  summit  of  the 
heights  east  of  the  town,  and  the  devoted  batteries  and 
battalions  of  the  5th  Division  on  the  high  ground  between 
the  town  and  the  Roman  road,  were  now  enfiladed  from 
both  flanks.  The  11th  Battery  man-handled  two  guns 
round  to  the  east  and  replied  effectively  to  the  German 
fire ;  but  the  concentration  of  a  superior  number  of 
German  guns,  probably  the  artillery  of  the  7th  and  8th 
Divisions,  and  very  soon  of  the  5th  Division  also,  upon  the 
exposed  batteries  of  the  XV.  and  XXVIII.  Brigades  R.F.A. 
caused  considerable  losses  :  salvos  of  shells  crashed  down 
on  gun  after  gun  in  succession,  but  the  gunners  stood  to 
their  work,  and  the  supply  of  ammunition  never  failed. 
The  Suffolk  and  K.O.Y.L.L,  the  front  line  of  the  14th  and 
13th  Brigades,  were  also  assailed  by  an  unceasing  storm 
of  shrapnel  and  high-explosive  shell,  but  vied  with  the 
artillery  in  steadiness.  At  9.45  a.m.  the  Argyll  and 
Sutherland  Highlanders,  of  the  19th  Brigade,  who  had 
been  ordered  forward  from  Reumont,  arrived  on  the  right 
rear  of  the  Suffolk  ;  two  companies  dug  themselves  such 
cover  as  they  were  able  with  their  "  grubbers  "  on  the 
ridge,  while  the  rest  remained  in  the  hollow  to  the  west  of 
them.  About  10  a.m.  the  firing  line  at  last  had  a  target, 
as  German  battalions  began  to  advance  in  thick  masses 
along  a  front  of  over  two  miles  from  the  valley  of  the  Selle 


160  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

to  Rambourlieux  Farm.^  The  11th  Battery,  man-handhng 
a  second  section  round  to  the  right,  fired  upon  them  in  the 
valley  at  pointblank  range  with  great  execution.  Before 
long,  every  officer  of  this  battery  had  fallen,  and  so  many 
men  that  only  enough  were  left  to  work  a  single  gun.  But 
that  single  gun  never  ceased  firing  ;  and  the  other  batteries, 
nearly  all  of  which  had  suffered  heavily,  showed  the  like 
indomitable  spirit.  From  Reumont  also  the  108th  Heavy 
Battery  burst  its  sixty-pounder  shells  among  the  hostile 
infantry  with  beautiful  precision,  tearing  great  gaps  in 
their  swarming  ranks  and  strewing  the  ground  with  killed 
and  wounded. 

But  losses  did  not  stop  the  German  infantry  of  1914. 
The  gaps  were  instantly  filled,  and  the  advance  of  the 
enemy  in  the  valley,  though  retarded,  was  not  brought  to 
a  standstill.  Parties  reached  a  little  copse  upon  Montay 
spur,  and  strove  to  enfilade  the  Suffolk  from  the  north  ; 
but  they  were  checked  mainly  by  a  machine  gun  of  the 
K.O.Y.L.I.  posted  on  the  Roman  road.  Further  to  the 
west,  the  Germans  made  less  progress.  From  the  region 
of  Rambourlieux  Farm,  profiting  by  past  experience,  they 
came  forward  in  small  bodies,  at  wide  intervals,  and 
taking  cover  behind  the  corn-stooks  which  covered  the 
fields  ;  but,  though  they  attacked  again  and  again,  they 
were  driven  back  by  the  shrapnel  of  the  artillery.  In  the 
zone  allotted  to  the  37th  and  52nd  Batteries  and  the 
XXVIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  the  Germans  came  on  in  close 
formation,  and  suffered  very  heavily.  The  first  target  of 
the  122nd  Battery  was  a  platoon  in  line,  with  the  men 
shoulder  to  shoulder,  which  emerged  from  a  fold  in  the 
ground.  The  battery  commander  gave  the  order  "  one 
round  gun  fire,"  and  every  man  of  the  Germans  fell.  At 
each  subsequent  effort  of  the  enemy  in  this  direction, 
much  the  same  scene  was  repeated  and  each  gathering 
line  of  Germans  was  laid  low. 

Nevertheless,  though  the  machine  gun  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I. 
checked  every  attempt  of  the  enemy  to  approach  the 
Suffolk  in  force,  it  was  possible  for  small  parties  of  Germans 
to  creep  up  into  a  cutting  on  the  Cambrai  road  on  their 
flank,  and  to  enfilade  them  both  with  rifles  and  machine 
guns.     Every  attempt  of  these  parties  to  build  up  a  firing 

^  This  was  the  attack  of  the  7ih  Division,  with  the  14th  Brigade  on 
both  sides  of  the  Forest — Le  Cateau  road  and  13th  Brigade  on  both  sides 
of  the  Forest — Montav  road  (see  Lohrisch).  The  orders  of  the  14th  Brigade 
were  to  envelop  the  British  right.    "Regt.  No.  66"  (1930  edition),  p.  23. 


THE  RIGHT  OF  THE  LINE  161 

line  in  advance  of  the  cutting  was,  however,  foiled  by  the  26  Aug. 
steady  marksmanship  of  the  Suffolk  and  by  the  shells  of  i^i"*- 
the  52nd  Battery.  The  left  company  of  this  battalion  had 
besides  a  very  fair  field  of  fire  over  the  ground  to  the  north- 
east, and  forbade  any  hostile  progress  in  that  quarter. 
But  the  German  machine  guns  could  be  neither  discovered 
nor  silenced  ;  and  the  Suffolk,  except  on  their  extreme 
left,  which  was  protected  by  a  sunken  road,  were  falling 
fast  under  their  fire.  Lieut. -Colonel  H.  L.  James  of  the 
Manchester  had  already  pushed  forward  one  company 
and  a  machine  gun  to  the  right  rear  of  the  Suffolk,  pro- 
longing their  line  to  the  south  ;  shortly  after  11  a.m., 
judging  the  position  to  be  critical,  and  being  unable  to 
find  the  brigadier,  he  ordered  two  more  companies  of  his 
battalion  to  advance  and  reinforce  the  Suffolk.  At  the 
same  time,  he  called  upon  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland 
Highlanders  and  1 /Middlesex,  of  the  19th  Brigade,  to 
support  him. 

The  two  companies  of  the  Manchester  accordingly 
moved  forward  under  fire  of  artillery,  rifles  and  machine 
guns,  but,  in  spite  of  more  than  one  check,  succeeded  in 
reaching  the  trenches  of  the  Suffolk.  The  left  company 
seems  to  have  suffered  less  than  the  other,  and  on  reaching 
the  left  company  of  the  Suffolk  found  that  it  was  not 
needed.  The  remainder,  who  bore  more  to  the  right, 
were  thrown  back  more  than  once ;  eventually,  however,  a 
portion  reached  the  right  centre  of  the  firing  line.  Ammuni- 
tion for  the  Suffolk  machine  guns  began  to  fail  at  this 
point  ;  it  was  vital  to  replenish  it  before  the  enemy  could 
further  develop  his  attack  from  the  east.  Major  E.  C. 
Doughty,  who  had  succeeded  to  the  command  of  the 
battalion  upon  the  fall  of  Lieut. -Colonel  C.  A.  H.  Brett 
early  in  the  day,  with  a  small  party  managed  to  bring  up  a 
few  bandoliers,  but  he  fell  desperately  wounded  at  the 
moment  of  his  arrival.  Meanwhile,  two  half-companies 
of  the  Highlanders  from  the  low  ground,  once  again  facing 
a  storm  of  fire,  rushed  through  the  wreck  of  the  11th 
Battery  into  the  right  section  of  the  trenches  of  the  Suffolk 
and,  though  at  heavy  loss,  brought  them  at  least  some 
assistance.  It  was  about  noon.  Two  German  guns,  reported 
to  be  "  heavy,"  ^  now  reached  the  summit  of  the  Montay 

^  Probably  4-2-inch  field  howitzers  with  telescopic  trails,  enabling  them 
to  be  used  for  direct  fire.  Heavy  howitzers  (each  German  corps  took  into 
the  field  4  batteries,  each  of  four  5-9  howitzers)  were  brought  up  on  other 
parts  of  the  field  against  Caudry  ("  Regt.  No.  153,"  p.  54)  and  against 
Troisville  and  Audencourt  ("  Regt.  No.  93,"  p.  44). 

VOL.  I  M 


162  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

spur  and  opened  fire  at  close  range.  The  last  gun  of  the 
11th  Battery  was  silenced,  and  the  Suffolk  and  Manchester, 
together  with  their  reinforcement  of  Highlanders,  were  in 
a  worse  plight  than  ever.  Nevertheless,  after  nearly  six 
hours  of  incessant  fire,  the  troops  on  the  right  of  the 
British  line,  which  rested  on  Le  Cateau,  still  stood  firm; 
The  German  infantry  was  steadily  increasing  in  numbers 
on  their  front  and,  despite  all  efforts,  was  drawing  steadily 
nearer ;  their  right  flank  was  open  ;  they  were  searched 
with  fire  from  front  and  right  and  left ;  strong  columns, 
betokening  the  approach  of  the  German  ///.  Corps,  were 
closing  in  upon  the  right  flank.  It  mattered  not  :  they 
had  been  ordered  to  stand.  The  I.  Corps,  for  whose 
coming  they  waited,  might  be  late,  as  Bliicher  had  been  at 
Waterloo  ;  but,  until  it  should  come,  there  must  be  no  giving 
way.  Nor  did  they  yield  the  ground  until  the  divisional 
orders  for  retirement  reached  them  some  hours  later. 

On  the  left  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I.  the  2/Scottish  Borderers 
(13th  Brigade)  and  the  Bedfordshire  and  Dorsetshire 
(15th  Brigade)  were  for  the  present  hardly  engaged.  They 
saw  nothing  of  the  enemy  but  distant  columns  advancing 
upon  Inchy  from  the  north-east,  which  were  observed  to  be 
caught  by  shell  fire  and  forced  to  deploy.  With  the  9th 
Brigade,  on  the  left  again,  the  situation  was  nearly  similar. 
The  German  guns  ^  opened  upon  it  soon  after  6  a.m.  before 
the  men  had  completed  the  trenches  begun  overnight, 
but  with  so  little  effect  that  they  were  able  to  continue 
digging  themselves  in  and,  thus  sheltered,  suffered  trifling 
loss.  There  was  no  sign  of  any  infantry  attack  —  no 
rifle  fire,  indeed,  except  that  of  a  few  skirmishers  with 
here  and  there  a  machine  gun — and  it  was  pretty  evident 
that  the  enemy  had  no  idea  for  the  present  of  any  attack 
upon  this  portion  of  the  line.  On  the  other  hand,  German 
troops, 2  working  up  the  valley  from  Bethencourt  and  from 
the  wood  just  to  the  east  of  it  towards  Inchy,  were  heavily 
shelled  by  the  guns  of  the  6th  Battery  and  of  the  XXIII. 
Brigade  R.F.A.  Some  small  parties,  nevertheless,  contrived 
to  make  their  way  into  Beaumont  and  Inchy,  only  to  be 
greeted  by  the  lyddite  shells  of  the  65th  Howitzer  Battery ; 
all  their  efforts  to  build  up  a  firing  line  in  front  of  these 
twin  villages  were  foiled  by  the  deadly  marksmanship  of 
the  British. 

1  Probably  of  the  4ih  Cavalry  Division. 
2  The  4th  Cavalry  Division.     (Poseck,  p.  63.) 


THE  RIGHT  CENTRE  163 

Against  the  line  of  the  8th  Brigade  around  Audcncourt  26  Aug. 
the  German  guns  came  into  action  rather  later  than  against  1^14 
the  9th  Brigade  ;  but  the  German  infantry  showed  itself 
almost  immediately  afterwards,  trickling  down  in  thin  lines 
towards  the  Cambrai  road,  with  its  machine  guns  clearly 
visible.  Its  advance  was,  however,  cautious,  and  three 
British  platoons  which  had  been  pushed  out  to  the  north 
of  the  Cambrai  road  were  able  to  rejoin  the  brigade  without 
being  seriously  pressed.  It  was  not  until  about  9  a.m.  that 
first  the  4/Middlesex  to  the  east  of  Audencourt,  and  later 
the  machine  guns  of  the  Royal  Scots,  in  the  country  road 
just  to  the  north  of  it,  opened  fire  upon  parties  of  Germans 
which  had  crossed  the  Cambrai  road.  Even  then  the  en- 
gagement in  this  quarter  throughout  the  forenoon  was  no 
more  than  desultory.  The  headquarters  of  the  brigade 
and  the  whole  of  its  transport  were  in  Audencourt  itself, 
and  there  seemed  no  immediate  menace  to  their  security. 
Masses  of  German  infantry  were  indeed  assembling  upon 
the  Cambrai  road  under  a  devastating  fire  from  the  British 
artillery  ;  but  the  8th  and  9th  Brigades  had  a  good  field  of 
fire,  and  there  was  little  temptation  to  the  enemy  to  waste 
strength  in  attacking  them,  when  immediately  to  their 
left  lay  Caudry,  forming  a  decided  salient  in  the  British 
line. 

Upon  Caudry  the  German  shells  fell  very  heavily  from 
an  early  hour,  and  bullets  were  whistling  down  the  streets 
even  before  the  fall  of  the  shells.  Up  to  6  a.m.  and  even 
later  the  units  of  the  7th  Brigade  were  still  under  the 
impression  that  the  retreat  would  be  resumed  ;  but  the 
enemy's  movements  soon  banished  any  such  idea  ;  for 
about  7  A.M.  the  German  riflemen  ^  moved  against  both  flanks 
of  the  village  with  vigour,  pouring  a  very  heavy  fire  in  par- 
ticular upon  the  Worcestershire  on  the  left.  So  pertinacious 
was  the  onset  that  reinforcements  were  summoned  from  the 
8th  Brigade  ;  in  consequence  about  8.30  a.m.  two  weak  com- 
panies of  the  Royal  Irish  came  up  and  took  post  in  a  railway 
cutting  which  skirts  the  eastern  flank  of  the  village.  Half 
an  hour  later,  at  9  a.m.,  the  Irish  Rifles  and  the  41st  Battery 
ended  their  wanderings  of  the  night  by  rejoining  the  brigade.^ 
The  battalion  entrenched  itself  about  a  thousand  yards 
south  of  Caudry  near  Tronquoy,  while  the  guns  unlimbered 
to  its  right  rear.  Thus  until  noon  the  7th  Brigade  contained 
the  Germans  without  difficulty,  so  that  they  gained  little  or 

*  The  9th  Cavalry  Division  and  three  Jdger  battahons.    (Poseck,  p.  59.) 

*  See  page  135. 


164  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

no  ground  ;  it  seemed  probable  that  here,  as  on  the  rest  of 
the  British  centre,  they  were  husbanding  their  strength  until 
their  main  effort  against  both  flanks  of  the  British  should 
produce  its  effect. 

P  11.  On  the  left  wing,  in  the  4th  Division,  no  orders  had  been 

:tch  7.  issued  for  the  retirement  to  be  continued  ;  those  sent  out 
on  the  previous  evening  to  occupy  the  Haucourt  position 
still  held  good  ^  and  were  confirmed  as  soon  as  General 
Smith-Dorrien's  message  reached  divisional  headquarters 
at  5  A.M.  But,  as  on  the  right,  the  general  action  opened 
with  misfortune  for  the  British.  Until  6  a.m.,  or  there- 
abouts, the  rear  guard  of  the  11th  Brigade  on  the  right  of 
the  division  continued  exchanging  shots  with  the  enemy 
to  the  north  of  Fontaine  au  Pire,  when  it  gradually  withdrew, 
the  1/Rifle  Brigade  coming  in  last  of  all  and  taking  position 
in  the  hollow  road  which  runs  southward  from  Beauvois  to 
Ligny.  A  platoon  of  Jdger,  which  was  imprudent  enough  to 
advance  in  pursuit  through  Fontaine  au  Pire,  was  annihil- 
ated by  the  accurate  fire  of  a  detachment  of  the  1/Hamp- 
shire.  After  that  the  enemy  made  no  further  attempt 
to  follow  up  the  11th  Brigade. ^  Meanwhile,  in  the  12th 
Brigade,  which  was  on  the  left  of  the  11th,  the  Lancashire 
Fusiliers  and  two  companies  of  the  Essex  Regiment  had  from 

4  A.M.  onwards  been  preparing  a  position  near  Longsart  and 
doing  what  digging  was  possible  with  their  "  grubbers." 
The  King's  Own  had  been  delayed  on  the  march,  but  towards 

5  A.M.  were  seen  approaching  over  the  hill  from  Haucourt. 

French  cavalry  patrols,  as  already  related,  had  been 
understood  to  report  the  front  to  be  clear  ;  and  the  4th 
Division  had  no  divisional  cavalry  or  cyclists  to  verify  the 
French  observations.  Suddenly,  shortly  after  6  a.m.,  two 
French  troopers  riding  towards  Cattenieres  were  seen  to  turn 
and  gallop  at  top  speed  to  the  south-west;  immediately  after- 
wards devastating  fire  of  machine  guns,  after  opening  on  the 
outpost  at  the  railway  crossing  north  of  Wambaix,  swept 
down  upon  the  King's  Own.  The  battahon  on  arrival  on 
the  right  of  the  brigade  had  halted  in  quarter-column — that 
is,  the  companies  were  in  line  one  behind  the  other  at  six 
paces  distance — arms  had  been  piled,  the  officers  had  fallen 
out  and  were  in  a  group  on  the  right  front  ;  some  of  them 
and  most  of  the  men  had  lain  down.     At  the  moment  that 

^  See  page  148. 

2  This  enemy  was  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division,  with  two  Jdger  battalions. 
(Poseck,  p.  55.) 


1 

I 


THE  LEFT  OF  THE  LINE  165 

fire  was  opened,  the  rear  company  was  moving  off  to  the  26  Au 
left  to  extend  the  Une  ;  it  was  caught,  as  were  most  of  the  ^^^'^ 
men  of  other  companies  who  were  standing  up,  and  Lieut. - 
Colonel  A.  M.  Dykes  was  killed.  The  regimental  transport, 
which  was  just  arriving  with  rations,  turned  and  stampeded, 
knocking  over  the  brigadier  and  his  brigade-major.  The 
companies  were  at  once  ordered  to  lie  down  and  all  men 
who  could  safely  use  their  rifles  opened  fire  at  about 
eight  hundred  yards  range  upon  the  German  machine  guns, 
with  immediate  effect.  Five  minutes  later,  however,  two 
or  three  German  batteries  came  into  the  open  between 
Wambaix  and  Cattenieres  railway  station,  unlimbered,  and 
speedily  picking  up  the  range,  poured  upon  the  unlucky 
King's  Own  a  storm  of  shells,  which  thinned  their  already 
depleted  ranks  still  further.  Two  companies  of  the  War- 
wickshire from  the  reserve,  by  direction  of  a  staff  officer, 
swarmed  up  the  hill  to  extricate  them,  but  were  swept  back 
upon  reaching  the  crest  with  very  heavy  loss.  For  some 
twenty  minutes  this  storm  of  shells  burst  over  the  King's 
Own,  after  which  the  fire  of  guns  and  machine  guns 
slackened,  and  the  survivors  of  the  battalion  moved  away 
to  their  right  into  the  shelter  of  a  country  lane,  running  east 
and  west,  from  which  they  opened  fire  with  such  effect  that 
the  machine  guns  were  smothered.  A  few  men  from  the 
rear  of  the  mass,  who  had  sought  shelter  in  the  ravine,  rallied 
and  rejoined  their  comrades  ;  and  the  King's  Own,  though 
reduced  by  some  four  hundred  casualties,  recovered  them- 
selves with  commendable  rapidity. 

The  Germans  then  turned  their  fire  upon  portions  of 
the  right  wing  of  the  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  to  the  west  of 
the  King's  Own  ;  and  soon  German  mounted  men  came 
out  into  the  open,  only  to  give  place  to  a  considerable  body 
of  infantry  ^  in  the  space  between  Wambaix  and  Cattenieres. 
The  Lancashire  Fusiliers  brought  their  two  machine  guns 
into  action,  and  thovigh  one  of  these  became  jammed  at 
once,  the  other  did  good  execution.  But  the  enemy,  having 
a  far  greater  number  of  machine  guns — it  was  estimated 
that  they  had  twenty-three  in  this  quarter  of  the  field  alone 
at  this  time  ^ — and  being  consequently  able  to  use  them 
with  greater  freedom,  now  crept  away  to  the  left  flank  of 
the  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  and  enfiladed  them  with  deadly 

^  Dismounted  men  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division  and  Jdger.  (Poseck, 
p.  56.) 

"  Twenty-one,  according  to  Poseck,  p.  56  :  the  guns  of  the  4th  M.G. 
Abteilung  and  two  Jdger  battalions. 


166  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

effect.  Two  companies  of  Inniskilling  Fusiliers  had 
already  come  up  from  Longsart  to  prolong  the  line  of  the 
Lancashire  Fusiliers,  one  upon  the  eastern  and  the  other 
upon  the  western  flank  ;  but  the  latter  was  at  once  en- 
gaged with  German  dismounted  cavalry.  There  were  signs 
also  of  the  development  of  a  hostile  attack  upon  the  front 
and  western  flank  of  Esnes,  where  the  two  remaining  com- 
panies of  the  Inniskilling  Fusiliers  were  already  disposed 
for  defence.  Against  them,  across  a  cornfield  that  had 
recently  been  cut,  advanced  the  7th  Jdger,  in  open  order, 
apparently  without  any  suspicion  that  a  foe  was  near.  As 
soon  as  the  Inniskillings  opened  fire  the  Germans  took  cover 
behind  the  corn-stooks.  These  availed  them  little,  and 
after  a  time  they  ran  back,  leaving  forty-seven  dead  in  front 
of  one  of  the  companies  w^hen  its  commander  in  the  lull  that 
ensued  went  out  to  count  them.  Thus  for  at  least  an  hour 
and  a  half  the  12th  Brigade  held  its  own  against  the  2nd 
Cavalry  Division  and  two  Jdger  battalions,  backed  by 
artillery  and  numerous  machine  guns. 

At  length  about  8.45  a.m.  the  German  progress  towards 
Wambaix,  round  the  left  flank  of  the  advanced  line,  had 
gone  so  far  that  a  retirement  seemed  to  Br. -General  H.  F.  M. 
Wilson  imperative.  The  King's  Own  on  the  right  were  the 
first  to  be  sent  to  the  south  side  of  the  Warnelle  ravine  ; 
to  cover  this  movement,  two  companies  of  the  Warwick- 
shire (10th  Brigade)  were  ordered  to  deliver  a  counter-attack 
from  Haucourt  upon  the  ridge  to  the  north  of  Longsart. 
The  1/Hampshire,  of  the  11th  Brigade,  pushed  forward  two 
platoons  to  protect  the  Warwickshire's  right  flank,  where- 
upon a  German  battery  moved  up  and  unlimbered  close 
to  the  railway  station  just  south  of  Cattenieres.  The 
Hampshire  men,  after  taking  the  range,  opened  rapid  fire 
at  a  thousand  and  fifty  yards,  and  within  a  minute  the 
battery  turned  and  galloped  away  to  seek  shelter.  This 
little  incident,  though  a  triumph  for  British  musketry,  could 
not  of  course  affect  the  main  issue.  The  Warwickshire 
again  reached  the  crest  of  the  ridge,  and  so  gained  some  little 
respite  for  the  King's  Own,  but  they  suffered  severely  from 
the  fire  of  artillery  and  machine  guns  and  were  forced  to  fall 
back.  The  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  covered  by  the  fire  of  two 
companies  of  the  Essex  on  the  Haucourt — Esnes  road,  were 
the  last  to  go  ;  not  without  difficulty,  for  the  Germans  were 
within  three  hundred  yards  of  them.  They  rallied  on  the 
ridge  to  the  south.  The  company  of  the  Essex  on  their 
immediate  left  had  retired  a  little  earlier  ;   but  that  of  the 


THE  LEFT  OF  THE  LINE  167 

Inniskillings  on  the  right  withdrew  with  them,  with  the  26  Aug. 
exception  of  the  left  platoon,  which  remained  where  it  had   i^^*- 
fought,  amid  a  circle  of  German  dead,  with  not  a  single  man 
un wounded.     The  withdrawal  of  the  12th  Brigade  across 
the  valley  to  the  line  Ligny — Esnes  was  now  practically 
accomplished. 

Meanwhile,  the  artillery  of  the  4th  Division  had  come 
into  action.  At  5.30  a.m.,  immediately  on  the  issue  of  the 
divisional  operation  orders  sent  out  on  receipt  of  General 
Smith-Dorrien's  message,  the  C.R.A.,  Br.-General  G.  F. 
Milne,  ordered  his  brigades  to  reconnoitre  positions  :  the 
XXXVII.  (Howitzer)  and  XXXII.  Brigades  R.F.A.  to  the 
east  of  the  Iris  stream,  and  the  XIV,  and  XXIX.  to  the 
west  of  it ;  the  two  last  at  once  to  take  up  positions  of 
readiness  south-east  of  Esnes.  Shortly  afterwards,  they 
came  into  action  :  the  XXXII.  and  XXIX.  Brigades 
detailed  to  co-operate  with  the  11th  Brigade,  and  the  XIV. 
with  the  12th  Brigade. 

The  XXXII.  Brigade  was  brought  into  action  as  rapidly 
as  possible,  as  the  11th  Brigade  was  asking  for  artillery 
support  to  divert  from  it  some  of  the  German  gun  fire  to 
which  it  was  being  subjected.  The  27th  Battery  un- 
limbered  in  the  open  to  the  west  of  Ligny,  the  134th  in  a 
covered  position  on  higher  ground  immediately  to  the 
south-west  of  the  village,  with  the  135th,  also  under  cover, 
to  the  left  rear  of  the  27th. 

The  XXIX.  Brigade  took  up  its  position  south-east  of 
Haucourt.  Of  the  XIV.,  the  68th  Battery  came  into  action 
at  once  just  south-west  of  the  village,  the  39th  three- 
quarters  of  a  mile  in  rear,  with  the  88th  in  the  valley-head 
to  the  east  of  St.  Aubert  Farm.  The  XXXVII.  (Howitzer) 
unlimbered  in  the  Iris  valley,  but  did  not  open  fire  from  this 
position.  The  heavy  battery,  as  already  noted,  was  not 
present. 

The  fire  of  the  XIV.  Brigade  gained  time  for  the  12th 
Brigade  to  rally  ;  and  then  the  enemy  came  on,  against  the 
Lancashire  Fusiliers,  just  as  the  British  would  have  desired 
— in  bunches,  firing  from  the  hip.  A  burst  of  rapid  fire 
from  a  hastily  formed  line  speedily  brought  the  advance  to 
a  standstill,  and  the  Lancashire  Fusiliers  took  advantage 
of  the  lull  to  re-form  on  a  better  position  a  short  distance  in 
rear.  The  German  artillery  now  redoubled  its  fire  ;  but 
between  9,30  and  10  a.m.  the  worst  of  the  surprise  attack 
was  over,  and  Br.-General  Wilson  was  able  to  reconstitute 
his  line  along  a  front  from  Ligny  through  Haucourt  to 


168  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

Esnes,  already  occupied  by  part  of  the  10th  Brigade. 
Br. -General  J.  A.  L.  Haldane,  warned  to  secure  the  left 
flank  of  the  division,  indeed  of  the  whole  B.E.F.,  moved  the 
R.  Irish  Fusihers  to  a  ridge  south-east  of  Esnes,  marked  by 
St.  Aubert  Farm  and  Point  137,  and  later  despatched  the 
Seaforth  to  take  a  position  in  echelon  to  the  Fusiliers.  On 
this  ridge  the  new  position  of  the  two  brigades  assumed 
the  shape  almost  of  a  semicircle,  with  its  convex  side  to  the 
enemy.  The  units  were  very  much  mixed,  and  it  is  im- 
possible to  say  precisely  where  parts  of  them  were  placed. 

By  11  A.M.  the  firing  in  this  quarter  of  the  field  had  died 
down.  The  German  attack,  delivered  by  a  force  of  cavalry 
and  Jdger,  with  a  very  powerful  backing  of  artillery,  had 
been  repulsed,  although  the  12th  Brigade  had  been  forced 
back  to  the  south  side  of  the  Warnelle  ravine,  and  had 
suffered  heavy  casualties,  chiefly  owing  to  the  mishap  to 
the  King's  Own.  The  cavalry  and  the  cyclists  of  the  4th 
Division,  had  they  been  available,  would  undoubtedly  have 
prevented  this  surprise.  Even  as  things  were,  the  division 
had  succeeded  in  holding  its  own.  Moreover,  if  the  Ger- 
mans hoped  to  pin  it  to  its  ground,  they  had  failed ;  for 
there  was  nothing  now  to  prevent  the  4th  Division  from 
continuing  its  retirement  if  it  so  desired. 

During  this  period  the  11th  Brigade  became  isolated  to 
a  certain  extent,  on  its  left  owing  to  the  retirement  of 
the  12th  Brigade  and,  on  its  right,  by  the  distance  which 
separated  it  from  the  7th  Brigade  ;  but  it  held  on  with  the 
greatest  tenacity.  Its  position,  it  may  be  recalled,  was 
on  the  Caudry  plateau  to  the  north  of  the  Warnelle  ravine, 
astride  the  "  Quarry  "  knoll  and  extending  thence  south- 
west across  the  railway  to  the  edge  of  the  plateau,  its 
general  front  being  towards  the  north-west.  Before  part 
of  this  front,  notably  on  the  northern  slope  of  the  "  Quarry" 
knoll,  there  was  a  natural  glacis,  but  further  to  the  west  the 
field  of  fire  was  bad.  The  enemy,  of  course,  avoided  the 
glacis,  and  preferred  to  work  round  both  flanks  of  the 
brigade  and  attack  along  the  line  of  the  railway  from  the 
west  and  from  the  southern  margin  of  Fontaine  au  Pire 
from  the  north-east.  But  though  the  Germans  brought  up 
battery  after  battery,  until  the  line  of  their  guns  extended 
from  Wambaix  to  the  north  of  Fontaine,^  and  swept  the 
plateau  with  them  and  with  machine  guns,  the  bombard- 

^  The  artillery  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  was  sent  up  ahead  of  its 
infantry,  and  the  whole  of  its  batteries  came  into  action  between  11.10 
and  11.30  a.m.  to  assist  the  Cavalry  Corps.    ("Res.  F.A.  Regt.  No.  7,"  p.  28.) 


THE  LEFT  OF  THE  LINE  169 

ment  was  not  followed  by  the  advance  of  infantry  in  large  26  Aug. 
bodies.  After  a  time  the  East  Lancashire  were  compelled  ^^i** 
to  retire  from  the  northern  slope  of  the  "  Quarry  "  to  a 
sunken  road  upon  the  southern  slope,  and  there  they 
remained.  The  Rifle  Brigade  and  two  companies  of  the 
Somerset  Light  Infantry,  on  the  right  of  the  East  Lanca- 
shire, also  held  their  ground,  though  heavily  shelled. 
They  were  rewarded  occasionally  by  the  sight  of  German 
infantry  striving  to  advance  over  the  stubble,  and  seized 
every  opportunity  of  cutting  them  down  by  rapid  fire. 

More  than  once  small  parties  of  the  11th  Brigade  were 
forced  out  of  the  more  exposed  positions  by  the  rain  of 
shrapnel ;  but  they  always  reoccupied  them,  or  were  re- 
placed by  supports  from  the  Warnelle  ravine.  Once  the 
Hampshire,  on  the  left  of  the  line,  essayed  a  counter- 
attack, but  it  proved  too  costly.  The  Germans  dealt  with 
it  by  fire,  and  then  waited ;  they  had  an  overwhelming 
force  of  artillery  ;  they  had  brought  forward  their  machine 
guns  with  much  skill ;  and  they  might  reasonably  reckon 
that  the  11th  Brigade  would  soon  retire  and  abandon  the 
position  without  bitter  fighting,  or,  better  still,  cling  to  it 
too  long,  and  be  surrounded.  Here,  therefore,  as  on  the 
remainder  of  the  left  wing,  there  was  a  deadlock. 

So  far  General  Smith-Dorrien  had  held  his  ground 
successfully  for  some  six  hours  ;  and,  except  immediately 
west  of  Le  Cateau,  his  line  was  not  only  unbroken  but 
unshaken.  Even  there  the  enemy  had  not  immediately 
pressed  home  the  advantages  which  he  had  gained.  But 
the  situation  was  rapidly  growing  more  serious.  To  that 
critical  point  we  must  now  return. 


NOTE 
German  Plans  for  the  26th  August  1914 

"  The  First  Army  orders  for  the  26th  were  based  on  the  two  ideas 
"  of  continuing  the  pursuit  south-westwards  by  forced  marclies,  and 
"  of  widening  the  front.  Report  was  made  to  the  Supreme  Command 
"  that  the  intention  was  '  to  bar  the  retreat  of  the  enemy  between 
"  '  Cambrai  and  St.  Quentin.'  "     (G.O.A.,  i.  p.  521.) 

The  situation  as  it  appeared  to  the  Germans  at  night  is  fully  Map  3. 
disclosed  by  Kluck's  operation  orders  issued  at  10.50  p.m.  on  the 
25th  August.  In  them  he  ordered  "  the  continuation  of  the  pursuit 
"  of  the  beaten  enemy  "  in  a  general  south-westerly  direction  : — his 
right,  the  //.  Corps,  \'ia  Cambrai  on  Bapaume  ;  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
(then  at  Valenciennes)  starting  early,  via  Vendegies  to  Cattenieres  ; 
the  IV.  Corps  via  Caudry  and  Montay  to  Vendhuille  ;  the  ///.  Corps 


170  LE  CATEAU  (6  A.M.  TILL  NOON) 

via  Le  Cateau  to  Maretz.  The  IX.  Corps  was  still  in  rear  observing 
the  western  front  of  Maubeuge  and  protecting  the  lines  of  com- 
munication against  sorties  from  the  fortress  ;  it  was  to  send  any 
troops  it  could  spare  after  the  III.  Corps.  "  The  commander  of  the 
"  //.  Cavalry  Corps  had  reported  that  on  the  26th  he  wished  to 
"  continue  the  pursuit  on  Bohain  (10  miles  south  by  west  of  Le 
"  Cateau).  With  this  the  First  Army  agreed."  ^  It  was  Kluck's 
intention  to  envelop  the  British  on  both  flanks.  From  his  own 
account,  he  seems  to  have  been  under  a  complete  misconception  of 
the  situation  in  the  morning.  He  thought,  when  it  was  found  that 
the  British  were  not  retiring,  that  they  were  holding  a  more  or  less 
north  and  south  position  (he  ordered  "  the  IV.  Corps  to  envelop 
"  the  northern  ;  the  ///.  Corps  the  southern  flank  of  the  position  "), 
and  were  trying  "  to  draw  off  in  a  westerly  direction  "  ;  and  he 
lost  sight  of  the  I.  Corps  altogether.  Possibly,  the  extension  of  the 
British  front  westwards  by  the  newly  arrived  4th  Division  helped 
to  mislead  him.  Further,  that  front  at  nightfall  on  the  25th  had 
been  established  by  contact  on  the  line  Landrecies — Solesmes  facing 
north-east  ;  and  the  move  of  the  4th  Division  from  Solesmes  during 
the  night,  practically  in  contact  with  the  Germans,  was  south-west. 
Possibly  he  thought  the  whole  force  was  following  the  same  direction. 
This,  of  course,  fitted  in  with  his  preconceived  idea  that  the  British 
Expeditionary  Force  was  based  on  Ostend,  Dunkirk  and  Calais. 

In  the  German  Second  Army,  Biilow  also  issued  operation  orders 
that  "  on  the  26th  the  pursuit  of  the  beaten  enemy  should  be  con- 
"  tinned  in  a  south-westerly  direction  with  the  greatest  possible 
"  energy."  As  he  had  to  leave  the  VII.  Corps  to  observe  the  eastern 
side  of  Maubeuge,  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  now  became  his  right.  This 
corps  only  reached  IMarbaix  on  the  26th  and  did  not  get  into  contact 
with  the  British  until  it  struck  the  rear  guard  of  the  I.  Corps,  the 
1st  (Guards)  Brigade,  at  Etreux  on  the  27th. 

^  The  orders  in  Poseck,  p.  55,  are  for  the  II.  Cavalry  Corps  to  move 
due  south  against  the  great  Roman  road  : 

2nd  Cavalry  Divisioyi,  with  4th  and   7ih  Jdger,  via  Carniferes — Esnes 

(practically  Wanibaix). 
9th  Cavalry  Division,  with  3rd,  9th  and  10th  Jdger,  via  Beauvois. 
4th  Cavalry  Division,  via  Caudry  (due  south  of  Quievy). 


CHAPTER  VIII 

THE    BATTLE    OF    LE    CATEAU,    26TH    AUGUST    {continued) 

From  Noon  till  5  p.m. 

(Sketch  7  ;  Maps  3,  10  &  11) 

Shortly  after  noon  the  situation  of  the  Suffolk  and  of  Sketch  7. 
the  batteries  supporting  them,  on  the  right  of  the  hne,  ^ap^s  lo 
became  serious  under  the  German  enfilade  fire.  The  108th 
Heavy  Battery,  in  action  well  behind  the  right  flank,  had 
silenced  one  troublesome  group  of  guns  near  Croix  ;  but, 
despite  this  piece  of  good  shooting,  the  hostile  artillery 
still  far  outmatched  the  British. ^  Reserves  there  were 
none,  except  the  four  battahons  of  the  19th  Brigade  ;  of 
these  the  Cameronians  and  Royal  Welch  Fusiliers,  in  view 
of  the  enemy's  movement  on  Ligny,  had  at  10  a.m.  been 
moved  away  westwards  to  Montigny,  behind  the  left  flank 
of  the  II.  Corps  ;  a  part  of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  High- 
landers had  already  been  thrown  into  the  fight ;  ^  and  only 
the  remainder  of  this  battalion,  together  with  the  1 /Middle- 
sex, was  available  on  the  right.  By  the  orders  of  Major- 
General  L.  G.  Drummond,  commanding  the  brigade,  two 
half-companies  of  the  Argylls,  with  the  battalion  machine 

^  Apparently  the  greater  part  of  the  artillery  of  the  German  5th  and 
7th  Divisions  was  in  action  against  the  5th  Division.  "  F.A.  Regt.  No.  18  " 
{5th  Division),  p.  21,  states  that  the  division  deployed  for  action  about 
11  A.M.  and  one  of  its  artillery  brigades  "  had  to  be  given  up  to  the  IV. 
"  Corps,  which  was  engaged  in  a  hard  fight,"  whilst  one  battery  of  the 
other  brigade  was  attached  to  the  6th  Division.  The  regimental  commander 
was  wounded.  "  Regt.  No.  26  "  {7th  Division),  pp.  57-8,  gives  the  interest- 
ing information  that  the  artillery  of  the  5th  Division  about  12.25  p.m.  fired 
on  one  of  its  own  battalions  and  on  other  infantry  of  the  IV.  Corps,  because 
"  troops  of  the  ///.  Corps  put  up  artillery  screens,  painted  black-white-red 
"  on  the  rear  side,  in  order  to  make  clear  their  position  to  the  artillery. 
"  As  our  corps  did  not  show  their  screens,  the  III.  Corps  artillery  believed 
"  it  had  the  enemy  in  front  of  it."  The  fire  received  was  '"  heavy  and  loss- 
"  bringing."  The  regiment  was  also  fired  on  by  its  own  corps  artillery, 
"  which  did  not  suppose  the  attackers  had  got  so  far  forward." 

*  See  page  161. 

171 


172 


LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 


guns,  were  now  sent  up  the  track  which  ran  over  the  ridge 
to  the  right  rear  of  the  Suffolk  ;  and  the  1 /Middlesex  moved 
forward  into  position  upon  the  right  of  the  Highlanders. 
The  only  reassuring  feature  in  the  situation  of  the  5th 
Division  was  that  the  Germans  were  not  pushing  their  way 
up  the  valley  of  the  Selle  past  the  right  flank  of  the  14th 
Brigade  with  the  rapidity  and  vigour  that  might  have  been 
expected.  Whether  the  German  ///.  Corps  had  been  slow 
in  following  its  advanced  troops,  or,  as  it  came  upon  the 
field,  had  been  diverted  from  Le  Cateau  westward,  in 
support  of  the  frontal  attack  on  the  14th  and  13th  Brigades, 
was  unknown,^  In  any  case,  the  detachment  of  the  Argyll 
and  Sutherland  Highlanders,  seeing  no  German  troops  in 
the  valley,  turned  its  machine  guns  at  long  range  on  to 
the  ridge  east  of  Le  Cateau.  This  drew  the  fire  of  the 
German  artillery,  which  put  both  the  machine  guns  out  of 
action.  But,  at  the  moment,  the  danger  lay  not  in  the 
east  but  in  the  north.  About  noon.  General  Smith- 
Dorrien  again  visited  5th  Division  headquarters,  and  dis- 
cussed with  Sir  Charles  Fergusson  the  question  of  holding 
on  or  retiring.  As  the  Germans  were  so  near,  it  was  thought 
that  a  counter-attack  would  be  necessary  to  disengage,  and 
the  decision  to  retire  was,  temporarily,  postponed. 

Shortly  before  1  p.m..  Sir  Charles  Fergusson  from  his 
lookout  in  Reumont  village  could  see  that  the  right  of  his 
division  was  shaken  and  might  shortly  give  way,  and  he 
reported  in  that  sense  to  corps  headquarters.  A  little 
later  he  added  that  a  German  division  ^  was  working  round 
his  right  from  Bazuel.  Finally  at  1.20  p.m.  he  suggested 
that  unless  material  assistance  could  be  sent  to  him  he  had 
better  begin  retiring.  It  seems  to  have  been  about  this 
time,  during  a  lull  in  the  German  fire,  that  the  teams  of  the 
11th  Battery  came  up  to  the  guns,  and  got  five  of  them 
away,  that  of  the  sixth  being  shot  down.  The  teams  of 
the  80th  and  37th  Batteries  also  came  forward,  and  brought 
away  five  of  the  guns  and  four  of  the  howitzers  ;  another 
howitzer  as  will  be  seen  was  recovered  later  on.  But  these 
three  batteries  were  saved  at  the  cost  of  the  teams  of  the 


1  For  what  had  happened  to  the  German  III.  Corps,  see  Note  I.  at 
end  of  Chapter  IX. 

2  This  was  thought  to  be  the  head  of  the  5th  Division  of  the  III.  Corps, 
but  must  have  been  the  165th  Regiment  of  the  7th  Division  (in  the  same 
brigade  as  the  27th).  This  regiment  went  over  the  high  ground  east  of 
Le  Cateau,  deployed  south  of  the  Le  Cateau — Maubeuge  railway  and  then, 
about  4  P.M.,  turned  towards  Honnechy,  which  it  reached  as  the  last  British 
were  leaving  the  village  (p.  25  of  its  history). 


THE  RIGHT  OF  THE  LINE  173 

52nd,  whose  guns  had  consequently  to  be  abandoned.  The  26  Aug. 
gunners  of  this  battery  were  ordered  to  retire,  but  a  few  1914. 
remained  and  managed  to  keep  one  gun  in  action.  Some- 
what later,  the  teams  of  the  122nd  Battery  galloped  up 
through  the  line  of  the  West  Kent,  in  brigade  reserve,  who 
stood  up  and  cheered  them  loudly  as  they  dashed  between 
their  trenches  and  onward  down  the  slope  towards  their 
guns.  As  they  came  within  view  of  the  enemy,  they  were 
struck  by  a  hurricane  of  shrapnel  and  of  bullets  from  the 
machine  guns  in  the  Cambrai  road  ;  but  still  they  went  on. 
The  officer  in  charge  of  the  teams  was  killed,  and  one  team 
shot  down  in  a  heap  before  the  position  was  reached  ;  but 
two  guns  of  the  122nd  Battery  were  carried  off  without 
mishap.  A  third  was  limbered  up,  but  the  horses  went 
down  instantly.  It  was  an  extraordinary  sight  :  a  short 
wild  scene  of  galloping  and  falling  horses,  and  then  four 
guns  standing  derelict,  a  few  limbers  lying  about,  one  on 
the  skyline  with  its  pole  vertical,  and  dead  men  and  dead 
horses  everywhere.  It  was  then  decided  to  abandon  the 
remaining  guns,  as  also  those  of  the  124th  and  123rd 
Batteries,  which  were  in  an  even  more  exposed  position, 
the  breech-blocks  being  first  removed  and  the  sights 
smashed.  Altogether,  twenty-four  field  guns  and  a  howitzer 
were  lost  in  this  part  of  the  field  ;  considering  that  the 
batteries  were  practically  in  the  firing  line,  it  is  astonishing 
that  any  were  rescued  ;  the  feat  redounds  to  the  eternal 
honour  of  the  officers  and  men  of  the  5th  Division 
artillery. 

It  was  now  about  2  p.m.  At  1.40  p.m.,  in  response  to 
the  1.20  P.M.  message.  General  Smith-Dorrien  had  placed 
his  two  remaining  battalions,  the  Cameronians  and  the 
Royal  Welch  Fusiliers,  at  Sir  Charles  Fergusson's  disposal, 
ordering  them  to  move  from  Montigny  to  Bertry,  and  asking 
him  to  hold  his  ground  at  any  rate  a  little  longer,  so  as 
to  allow  the  preliminary  movements  of  the  retirement 
to  take  effect ;  he  was  to  begin  the  withdrawal  of  the 
5th  Division  as  soon  as  he  should  think  fit  :  after  which 
the  3rd  and  4th  Divisions  were  to  follow  in  succession. 
General  Smith-Dorrien  had  already  summoned  to  his 
headquarters  the  G.S.0.1  of  the  4th  Division — to  which 
he  was,  about  midday,  connected  by  signal  cable — to 
receive  orders.  These  were  to  the  same  effect  as  those 
given  to  the  5th  Division.  Roads  were  allotted  for  the 
retirement  to  the  north-west  of  St.  Quentin,  when  it  should 
take  place,  as  follows  : — 


174  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

Map  3.        To  the  5th  Division  and  19th  Brigade  : 

(1)  via  Bertry — Maretz,  and  thence  the  Roman  road  to 

Vermand  ; 

(2)  via   Reumont — Maurols — Busigny — Bohain — Bran- 

court — Joncourt — Bellenglise. 

To  the  3rd  Division,  via  Montigny  —  Clary — Ehncourt — 
Mahncourt  (east  of  the  Church) — Beaurevoir — Gouy — Bony — 
Hargicourt — Jeancourt. 

To  the  4th  Division,  via  Selvigny — Mahncourt  (west  of  the 
Church) — Aubencheul— Ronssoy — Templeux — Roisel. 

To  the  Cavalry,  any  roads  west  of  the  4th  Division. 

The  pressure  upon  the  British  line  immediately  west 
of  Le  Cateau  now  became  severe,  and  it  seemed  clear  that 
the  Germans  were  preparing  for  a  great  effort.  Before 
the  teams  of  the  122nd  Battery  advanced,  three  platoons 
of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders  had  twice  made 
gallant  attempts  to  reach  the  trenches  of  the  Suffolk, 
but  had  been  beaten  back  with  severe  loss  by  artillery 
and  machine-gun  fire.  They  rallied  under  the  protection 
of  the  59th  Field  Company  R.E.,  which  gave  up  its  trenches 
to  them  and  lay  down  in  the  open.  So  intense,  in  fact, 
was  the  machine-gun  fire  upon  the  whole  ridge  to  the  rear 
of  the  Suffolk  that  the  Highlanders  had  to  abandon  the 
line  which  they  had  taken  up,  and  move  further  down 
the  slope  towards  the  valley  of  the  Selle.  Meanwhile,  the 
German  battalions  were  steadily  gaining  ground  ;  in  fact, 
as  the  last  gun  team  of  the  5th  Division  artillery  was  driv- 
ing off,  as  described  above,  they  were  only  four  hundred 
yards  from  it,  and  were  only  kept  back  for  a  time  by  a  party 
of  the  Manchester,  which,  with  the  machine-gun  detach- 
ment, offered  so  stout  a  resistance  as  to  gain  a  few  minutes' 
respite.  During  this  brief  interval.  Captain  D.  Reynolds 
of  the  37th  Battery,  having  obtained  permission  to  call 
for  volunteers,  came  galloping  down  with  teams  to  rescue 
the  two  howitzers  which  had  been  left  on  the  ground. 
The  German  infantry  was  then  within  two  hundred  yards, 
yet  by  the  gallantry  and  devotion  of  this  little  party  both 
howitzers  were  limbered  up  ;  and  though  one  team  was 
shot  down  before  it  could  move,  the  other  galloped  off 
with  its  howitzer  and  brought  it  safely  away. 

This  episode  was  the  last  gleam  of  light  upon  this  gloomy 
corner  of  the  field. ^  Between  2.30  and  2.45  p.m.  the  end  came. 
The  Germans  had  by  this  time  accumulated  an  overwhelm- 

^  It  gained  the  Victoria  Cross  for  Captain  Reynolds  and  for  Drivers 
Luke  and  Drain.     Captain  Reynolds  was  killed  by  gas  near  Ypres,  1916. 


THE  RIGHT  OF  THE  LINE  175 

ing  force  in  the  shelter  of  the  Cambrai  road,  and  they  now  26  Aug. 
fell  upon  the  Suffolk  and  Manchester  from  the  front,  right  i^^'*- 
flank  and  right  rear.  The  turning  movement,  however, 
did  not  at  once  make  itself  felt,  and  the  two  battalions  and 
the  Argylls  with  them  opened  rapid  fire  to  their  front  with 
terrific  effect,  two  officers  of  the  Highlanders,  in  particular, 
bringing  down  man  after  man  and  counting  their  scores 
aloud  as  if  at  a  competition.  The  Germans  kept  sounding 
the  British  "  Cease  fire  "  and  gesticulating  to  persuade  the 
men  to  surrender,  but  in  vain.  At  length  a  rush  of  the 
enemy  from  the  rear  bore  down  all  resistance.  The  Suffolk 
and  Manchester  and  their  Highland  comrades  were  over- 
whelmed. They  had  for  nine  hours  been  under  an  in- 
cessant bombardment,  and  they  had  fought  to  the  very 
last,  covering  themselves  with  undying  glory. 

Meanwhile  orders  had  been  issued  about  2  p.m.^  by 
Sir  Charles  Fergusson  for  the  retirement  of  the  5th  Division 
to  begin,  but  these  do  not  appear  to  have  reached  any 
battalion  much  before  3  p.m.  It  was  comparatively  easy 
to  communicate  with  brigades,  but  nearly  impossible  to  get 
messages  to  the  firing  line,  as  the  fighting  there  was  almost 
hand-to-hand,  and  the  ground  in  rear  was  swept  by  shell 
fire.  Further,  the  14th  Brigade  was  handicapped  by  the 
loss  of  its  signal  section,  which  had  been  practically  de- 
stroyed in  the  early  morning  fighting  in  Le  Cateau.  As  a 
result  no  orders  at  all  reached  Lieut. -Colonel  R.  C.  Bond 
and  the  companies  of  the  K.O. Y.L.I,  in  the  firing  line. 
The  survivors  of  the  Suffolk  and  the  Manchester  (14th) 
and  the  Argylls  (19th)  had  drifted  back  towards  Reu- 
mont  ;  thus  the  right  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I.,  which  faced 
eastwards,  became  heavily  engaged  with  German  infantry 
advancing  over  the  ridge  which  the  Suffolk  had  held. 
First  two  battalions  in  dense  masses  swept  over  the  crest 
and  down  the  beetroot-field  on  its  western  slopes.  The 
Yorkshiremen — five  platoons  with  two  machine  guns — 
allowed  them  to  move  well  down  the  slope  and  then  opened 
rapid  fire,  which  drove  the  enemy  back  with  heavy  loss  to 
the  reverse  side  of  the  ridge.  Meanwhile,  the  Duke  of 
Wellington's  and  West  Kent  (13th  Brigade)  had  begun  to 
retire  from  the  right  rear  of  the  K.O.Y.L.L,  as  did  also 
the  East  Surrey,  conforming  to  the  movement  of  the  West 
Kent;  whilst  the  Scottish  Borderers  (13th)  on  the  other  flank 
of  the  brigade  were  also  beginning  to  fall  back.     When, 

^  No  records  or  messages  of  this  period  are  available,  as  the  5th  Division 
headquarters  wagon  was  hit  and  blown  up  in  Reumont. 


176  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

therefore,  shortly  after  their  first  advance,  the  Germans  re- 
appeared on  the  crest  of  the  ridge,  they  could  outflank  the 
right  of  the  K.O.Y.L.I.  This  they  proceeded  to  do,  pro- 
gressing slowly  and  warily,  after  the  lessons  which  they 
had  received,  throwing  out  troops  wide  to  the  south-east 
so  as  completely  to  envelop  the  K.O.Y.L.I. 's  right  rear. 
The  five  platoons  and  the  machine  guns  once  again  found 
a  good  target  at  five  hundred  yards  range  and  took  full 
advantage  of  it ;  but  the  Germans  now  pressed  home  their 
attack  on  the  main  front  of  the  battalion  from  the  Cambrai 
road,  and  on  its  left  flank  from  the  ground  vacated  by  the 
Scottish  Borderers.  Although  the  left,  by  sheer  marks- 
manship, was  able  to  prevent  the  enemy  from  planting 
machine  guns  on  the  last-named  ground,  its  occupation 
by  increasing  numbers  of  the  enemy,  who  at  once  opened 
a  destructive  enfilade  fire,  could  not  be  prevented.  A 
desperate  effort  was  made  to  reinforce  this  flank,  but  nearly 
every  man  sent  forward  was  shot  down  ;  and  the  enemy 
now  set  himself  systematically  to  roll  up  the  attenuated 
line  of  Yorkshiremen  from  left  to  right.  In  spite  of  the 
gallant  efforts  of  Major  C.  A.  L.  Yate,^  who  commanded  the 
firing  line,  the  end  came  soon  afterwards.  The  company 
with  him  had  lost  over  sixty  men  killed  outright  and  many 
wounded,  and  the  other  companies  had  suffered  equally  ; 
when  therefore  about  4.30  p.m.  the  final  rush  of  the  enemy 
took  place,  the  survivors  were  overpowered  and  made 
prisoners.  That  night  the  2/K.O.Y.L.I.  mustered  only  8 
officers  and  320  rank  and  file,  but  it  had  held  up  the 
Germans  at  the  only  point  where  they  penetrated  into  the 
British  position,  and  thus  gave  the  rest  of  the  5th  Division 
a  clear  start  in  their  retirement. 

Whilst  the  advance  of  the  enemy  through  the  gap  im- 
mediately to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau  had  thus  been  delayed 
by  a  single  battalion,  the  progress  of  his  outflanking  move- 
ment to  the  east  of  the  town  was  also  checked.  Three 
platoons  of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders,  it  will 
be  remembered,  had  moved  down  the  western  slope  of  the 
valley  of  the  Selle  ;  here  they  found  the  59th  Field  Com- 
pany R.E.  ;  and  in  the  course  of  time,  half  the  1/Middle- 
sex,  with  two  companies  of  the  1/Scots  Fusiliers  (which 
had  joined  the  19th  Brigade  on  the  night  of  the  25th  from 
the  9th  Brigade  reserve)  prolonged  the  line  to  the  right. 

^  Major  Yate  was  awarded  a  posthumous  V.C.  He  escaped  from 
his  prison  camp  in  Germany  and  was  found  near  BerUn  with  his  throat 
cut. 


THE  RIGHT  OF  THE  LINE  177 

Towards    3    p.m.    German   troops  ^    were    seen    advancing  26  Aug. 
westwards  over  the  spur  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  valley  ;    ^^^'*- 
whereupon   the   Middlesex,    Highlanders   and   Royal   En- 
gineers opened  fire  at  fifteen  hundred  yards  range,  and 
effectually  turned  them  back.     Thus  the  Germans  were 
held  for  a  time  both  to  the  east  and  west  of  Le  Cateau,  and 
General  Smith-Dorrien's  dispositions,  now  in  progress,  to 
cover  the  retreat  on  this  side  had  ample  time  to  take  effect. 
The  long  valley  that  runs  up  from  Le  Cateau  southwards 
to  Honnechy  had  been  since  9  a.m.  under  the  observation 
of  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  and  E  Battery,  posted  between 
Escaufourt  and  Honnechy,  these  troops  having  retired  to 
that  position,  where  they  found  L  Battery  in  action,  at 
the  close  of  their  first  engagement  with  the  enemy  about 
Bazuel.     At  1.15  p.m.  the  D.C.L.I.,  and  the  two  companies 
of  the  East  Surrey  which  were  with  them,  were  ordered 
from  the  reserve  of  the  5th  Division  ^  to  Honnechy  ;   about 
2  P.M.  the  2/Royal  Welch  Fusiliers  and  1/Scottish  Rifles 
of  the  19th  Brigade,  General  Smith-Dorrien's  only  corps 
reserve,   now   at  the  disposal  of  the  5th  Division,   were 
directed  to  march  from  Bertry,  and  to  post  themselves  on 
the  left  of  the  Duke  of  Cornwall's  at  Maurois  ;    and  the 
1 /Norfolk  w^as  sent  back  from  the  "  Tree  "  on  the  Sunken 
Road  to  Reumont.     Lastly,  a  section  of  the  108th  Heavy 
Battery  was  ordered  to  take  up  a  position  near  Honnechy  ; 
though  one  gun  was  unfortunately  upset  going  through  a 
gateway  with  a  little  bridge  over  a  ditch  and  had  to  be 
abandoned,  the  other  safely  reached  the  place  assigned  to 
it.     By  3  P.M.,  or  very  little  later,  the  whole  of  these  troops 
were  in  position  behind  the  right  flank  :    it  only  remained 
to  be  seen  how  vigorously  the  enemy  would  follow  up  his 
success.     At  3.47  p.m.  the  II.  Corps  reported  to  G.H.Q.  by 
a  telegram,  received  at  3.50  p.m.,  that  the  retirement  had 
begun. 

Towards  3.30  p.m.  Germans  again  showed  themselves 
on  the  eastern  side  of  the  Selle,  this  time  in  extended  order, 
so  that  the  rifles  and  machine  guns  of  the  party  of  Argyll 
and  Sutherland  Highlanders  had  not  the  same  chance 
against  them  as  before.  But,  as  they  advanced,  they  were 
met  by  the  shells  of  E  and  L  Batteries,  and,  after  working 
their  way  south  for  a  time,  took  shelter  under  cover  of 
the  railway  embankment,  and  there  came  to  a  temporary 
standstill.  The  1/Middlesex  on  the  Highlanders'  right 
next  withdrew  up  the  valley  of  the  Rivierette  des  Essarts 
1  The  165th  Regiment  (see  page  172,  f.n.  2).  *  ggg  page  159. 

VOL.  I  N 


178  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

towards  Reumont ;  and  the  Argylls,  being  warned  that  the 
Germans  were  crossing  the  Roman  road  in  their  left  rear, 
fell  back  to  the  spur  which  runs  south-east  from  Reumont, 
where  they  found  a  mixed  body  of  Manchesters  and  other 
units  deployed,  and  took  up  position  alongside  them.  The 
Germans  had  by  this  time — about  4.30  p.m. — brought  up 
guns  to  engage  the  British  batteries  near  Escaufourt  and 
were  advancing  up  the  valley  of  the  Rivierette  des  Essarts; 
but  their  losses  were  heavy  and  their  progress  slow.  An 
aeroplane  detected  the  position  of  E  and  L  Batteries,  but 
the  consequent  German  fire  does  not  appear  to  have  done 
any  great  damage.  There  was  no  sign  of  German  cavalry 
hurrying  forward  in  masses  to  the  pursuit,  and  there 
seemed  to  be  a  good  prospect  that  darkness  would  fall 
before  the  enemy  could  close  with  the  rear  guards  retiring 
from  the  valley  of  the  Selle.^ 

Immediately  to  the  west  of  Le  Cateau  in  the  13th 
Brigade  area,  the  enemy  had  equally  failed  to  press  his 
advantage  ;  the  shells  of  the  61st  Howitzer  Battery  and 
108th  Heavy  Battery  constantly  broke  up  the  German 
infantry  when  it  tried  to  reassemble  and  re-form.  The 
2/Duke  of  Wellington's  was  certainly  heavily  shelled  as 
it  retired,  but  suffered  little  harm,  though  the  battalion 
became  widely  scattered.  The  West  Kent  fell  back  slowly 
and  methodically,  and  their  rear  guard  saw  nothing  to 
shoot  at  except  a  German  company  which  showed  itself 
for  a  few  minutes  passing  eastward  through  the  abandoned 
guns  of  the  XV.  Brigade  R.F.A.  more  than  a  thousand 
yards  away.  Between  4.30  and  5  p.m.  this  rear  guard 
retired  in  extended  order  without  molestation  even  by 
artillery.  The  Scottish  Borderers  withdrew  in  the  same 
way,  though  the  order  to  retire  unfortunately  did  not 
reach  the  greater  part  of  one  company,  which  was  sur- 
rounded and  captured.  Near  the  "  Tree  "  on  the  Sunken 
Road  at  least  one  company  halted  for  the  best  part  of  an 
hour,  and  fired  with  great  effect  upon  German  infantry 
nine  hundred  yards  to  its  right.  Between  4.15  and  5  p.m. 
the  battalion  fell  back  by  successive  companies  to  Trois- 
villes,  and  then  turned  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  15th 
Brigade  which  was  falling  back  in  perfect  order.  Thus  on 
the  right  of  the  line,  the  most  critical  point  of  all,  things 
had  not  gone  altogether  ill  in  the  first  and  most  difficult 
stage  of  the  retreat. 

^  No  orders  for  pursuit  were  issued  by  Kluck  until  8.13  p.m.,  and  these 
directed  the  line  Esnes — Caudry — Reumont  to  be  crossed  at  4  a.m.  next  day. 


THE  RIGHT  CENTRE  OF  THE  LINE         179 

Until  a  little  past  noon,  on  the  right  centre  of  the  line,  26  Aug. 
the  Bedfordshire  and  Dorsetshire  in  the  firing  line  of  the  i^^'*- 
15th  Brigade,  the  left  of  the  5th  Division,  saw  little  or^^^^tchT. 
nothing  of  the  enemy,  except  at  a  distance  ;  and  even  then  ^^  ' 
they  could  perceive  only  small  parties  on  the  Cambrai  road 
(which  at  this  point  except  for  one  small  house  offered 
no  shelter  to  the  enemy)  bringing  up  what  appeared  to 
be  stretchers — but  actually  were  machine  guns  carried 
by  their  folding  legs.  As  soon  as  the  real  nature  of  their 
burdens  was  discovered  they  were  engaged  by  the  machine 
guns  of  the  Dorsetshire,  and  the  detachments,  one  of  which 
endeavoured  to  take  shelter  in  the  small  house,  shot  down  ^ 
before  they  could  come  into  action.  Later  on  the  German 
infantry  showed  itself  in  front  in  greater  force,  but  was  so 
hotly  received  by  the  Bedfordshire  and  Dorsetshire,  as  well 
as  by  the  batteries  of  the  XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  that  it 
would  not  venture  upon  a  definite  attack.  Soon  after 
3  P.M.  the  order  to  retire  was  received  by  the  15th  Brigade, 
and  it  was  calmly  and  systematically  obeyed.  The  119th 
Battery  was  withdrawn  first,  and  moved  back  to  the  spur 
just  south  of  the  "  Tree  "  on  the  Sunken  Road.  About 
3.30  P.M.  the  Bedfordshire  and  Dorsetshire  fell  back  slowly 
in  succession  covered  by  the  machine  guns  of  the  latter, 
and,  together  with  the  121st  Battery,  faced  about  again  at 
the  south-eastern  angle  of  Troisvilles.  Germans  had  not 
yet  crossed  the  Cambrai  road  on  their  front,  having  been 
checked  by  the  rifle  fire,  at  long  range,  of  the  right  com- 
pany of  the  Fifth  Fusiliers  (9th  Brigade) ;  but  the  enemy's 
artillery  now  concentrated  a  very  heavy  fire  upon  Trois- 
villes from  the  north  and  north-east,  and,  gradually  finding 
the  range,  compelled  this  company,  as  well  as  the  Scottish 
Borderers  on  its  right,  to  retire  once  more.  The  121st 
Battery  was  only  limbered  up  with  difficulty,  but  the 
Dorsetshire,  well  covered  by  their  machine  guns,  got  back 
to  the  southern  end  of  Troisvilles  with  little  loss.  A 
German  aeroplane  now  appeared  over  their  heads,  dropping 
smoke  signals,  and  the  German  gunners  guided  by  these 
put  down  a  barrage  of  shrapnel  on  every  road  and  track 
leading  to  the  south.  The  Scottish  Borderers,  who  had 
taken  the  road  towards  Reumont,  were  diverted  from  it 
to  the  open  country  further  west.  The  Dorsetshire  and 
the   Bedfordshire   broke  into  small   parties   and,    passing 

^  Three  infantry  regiments  of  the  8th  Division  were  endeavouring  to 
reach  the  road  on  the  front  Inchy  and  east  of  it — Caudry,  mamly  against 
the  3rd  Division. 


180  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

through  the  barrage  with  httle  or  no  damage,  headed  south 
across  country  towards  Maurois.  Bedfordshire,  Dorsetshire, 
Cheshire  (15th  Brigade  reserve)  and  Scottish  Borderers  all 
entered  the  Roman  road  near  Reumont  or  Maurois  without 
the  slightest  pressure  of  German  cavalry  or  infantry  upon 
their  rear.  Only  on  their  right — towards  Le  Cateau — had 
the  enemy  pushed  on  in  any  force  ;  and  his  advance  there 
had  been  delayed  as  has  already  been  described. 

The  withdrawal  of  the  5th  Division  from  a  broad  and 
scattered  front  on  to  a  single  road  at  right  angles  thereto 
naturally  brought  as  a  consequence  a  thorough  mix-up 
of  all  units — except  in  the  case  of  the  15th  Brigade,  which 
entered  it  as  a  formed  body.  This  state  of  affairs  the 
Staff,  as  will  be  later  narrated,  took  steps  to  remedy  as 
soon  as  possible  ;  but  the  enemy  was  too  close  for  any 
immediate  attempt  at  re-forming  to  be  made.  There  was, 
to  quote  one  eye-witness,  "  confusion,  but  no  disorganiza- 
tion ;  disorder,  but  no  panic  "  ;  while  another  has  exactly 
caught  the  scene  by  saying  that  it  reminded  him  of  a  crowd 
leaving  a  race  m.eeting  and  making  its  way  earnestly 
towards  a  railway  station. 

Sketch  7.  On  the  left  of  the  15th  Brigade  in  the  3rd  Division 
Map  11.  sector,  the  9th  had  been  perfectly  secure.  The  enemy  had 
established  himself  on  the  southern  edge  of  Inchy,  but  had 
been  unable  to  advance  a  yard  further  ;  and,  though  Br.- 
General  F.  C.  Shaw's  battalions  had  had  little  opportunity 
of  using  their  rifles,  the  XXIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  had  inflicted 
very  severe  loss  on  the  German  infantry.  Soon  after  3  p.m. 
the  brigadier  observed  that  the  troops  on  his  right  were 
retreating  ;  though  it  was  plain  that  the  Germans  were  not 
following  them  in  any  strength,  he  was  relieved  when  orders 
reached  him,  at  3.30  p.m.,  to  conform  with  the  movement. 
Pushing  up  the  Royal  Fusiliers  from  the  reserve  to  the 
north-western  edge  of  Troisvilles,  he  brought  away  nearly 
all  his  wounded,  after  which  he  withdrew  deliberately  in 
succession  the  Fifth  Fusiliers,  the  two  companies  of  the 
R.  Scots  Fusiliers  and  the  Lincolnshire  with  very  trifling  loss. 
The  German  skirmishers  lining  the  southern  edge  of  Inchy 
tried  hard  to  hinder  the  movement,  but  were  silenced  by 
the  advanced  sections  of  the  107th  and  108th  Batteries. 
Although  the  Fifth  Fusihers,  before  they  could  reach  the 
shelter  of  a  hollow  near  Le  Fayt,  had  to  cross  a  thousand 
yards  of  open  ground,  the  German  artillery  scarcely  fired 
a  round  at  them.     As  the  last  party  of  the  Lincolnshire 


THE  LEFT  OF  THE  LINE  181 

came  abreast  of  the  advanced  section  of  the  108th  Battery,  26  Aug. 
the  officer  in  command,  having  fired  off  his  last  round  of  '^^^'^• 
ammunition,  disabled  and  abandoned  his  guns.  This  and 
the  other  advanced  section  had  done  great  work,  but  at 
the  cost  of  four  18-pdrs.  The  retreat  was  then  continued 
methodically,  without  pressure  from  the  enemy,  and  the 
battalions  re-formed  as  soon  as  they  reached  sheltered 
ground.  The  XXIII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  was  collected  at 
Bertry.  The  9th  Brigade  took  position  on  the  ridge  be- 
tween Bertry  and  Montigny  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the 
rest  of  the  3rd  Division  ;  its  casualties  amounted  to  hardly 
one  hundred  and  eighty. 

The  course  of  events  west  of  the  9th  Brigade  is  less  easy  Sketch  7. 
to  describe.  From  noon  onwards  there  was  a  lull  in  the  ^^^P  ^^' 
German  fire,  and  advantage  was  taken  of  this  to  reinforce 
the  troops  at  Caudry  with  half  a  company  of  the  Irish 
Rifles.  Some  of  the  12th  Brigade  likewise  seized  the  oppor- 
tunity to  recross  to  the  north  side  of  the  Warnelle  ravine 
in  order  to  bring  in  their  wounded,  but  they  were  driven 
back  by  a  steady  fire  from  the  enemy  before  they  could 
collect  many  of  them.  Then  about  1.40  p.m.  the  German 
guns  opened  fire  once  more  with  increased  violence  and  in 
much  greater  numbers,^  concentrating  in  the  first  instance 
chiefly  on  Caudry,  while  simultaneously  German  infantry 
advanced  against  the  junction  of  the  Royal  Scots  and 
Gordon  Highlanders  immediately  to  the  north  of  Auden- 
court.  They  failed  however  to  gain  any  ground,  being  met 
by  an  accurate  fire  on  their  front  and  effectively  enfiladed, 
at  a  range  of  six  hundred  yards,  by  the  left  company  of  the 
Gordons.  At  Caudry  itself  the  enemy  was  more  successful. 
About  2  P.M.  he  began  a  bombardment  of  the  village  with 
heavy  guns,  the  first  shell  of  which  stunned  Br. -General 
F.  W.  N.  McCracken  and  wounded  his  brigade-major.  The 
brigadier  was  understood  to  order  a  retirement,  and 
Caudry  was  evacuated,  so  that  German  infantry  was  able 
to  enter  and  occupy  it.^  About  the  same  time  large  parties 
of  enemy  infantry^  developed  a  strong  attack  from  the 
north-west  against  the  half-battalion  of  the  Inniskilling 

^  See  page  161,  f.n.  1. 

2  The  bombardment  of  the  village  was  by  5-9-inch  howitzers.  "  Regt. 
No.  153,"  p.  56  (f.n.),  quotes  the  text  of  the  first  edition  of  this  volume, 
and  says  that  nothing  is  known  in  the  8fh  Division  of  any  infantry  entering 
Caudry.  But  the  British  account,  of  the  counter-attack  which  retook  all 
but  the  northern  part  of  the  village,  is  circumstantial,  and  the  presence  of 
Germans  in  Caudry  is  supported  by  the  evidence  of  the  11th  Brigade. 

3  This  was  the  advanced  guard  of  the  7ih  Reserve  Division,  which  got 
up  at  2  P.M.  (see  page  184,  f.n.  1). 


182  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

Fusiliers  which  covered  the  western  flank  at  Esnes.  They 
were  met  by  rapid  rifle  and  machine-gun  fire,  supported 
shortly  after  by  artillery.  The  answering  German  fire  was 
wholly  ineffective,  and  the  Inniskillings  were  able  to  check 
this  attack  completely.  Nevertheless,  the  situation  was 
not  reassuring ;  for  it  was  clear  that  fresh  German  infantry, 
the  herald  of  another  corps,  had  come  up,  and  that,  if  it 
failed  to  break  in  on  the  north  side  of  Esnes,  it  would  work 
round  to  the  left  flank  and  rear. 

Meanwhile,  between  2.30  and  3  p.m.  the  3/Worcester- 
shire  (7th  Brigade)  counter-attacked  at  Caudry,  reoccupied 
the  southern  portion  of  the  village  and  pushed  advanced 
posts  to  the  north  and  north-east.  But  the  northern  part 
of  the  village  was  not  recovered,  and  the  Germans  had 
already  made  the  11th  Brigade  sensible  of  their  presence 
on  its  right  flank.  Br.-General  A.  G.  Hunter-Weston, 
naturally  assuming  that  Caudry  had  been  finally  lost,  de- 
cided to  withdraw  the  11th  Brigade  across  the  Warnelle 
ravine  to  a  position  before  Ligny.  The  guns  of  the  135th 
Battery  were  brought  forward  and  entrenched  in  and  round 
Ligny  for  close  defence  ;  and  then,  the  1 /Rifle  Brigade,  with 
a  platoon  of  the  East  Lancashire,  being  left  at  the  "  Quarry  " 
as  rear  guard,  the  remaining  battalions  of  the  brigade  were 
shortly  after  3  p.m.  drawn  off  into  the  low  ground  of  the 
ravine  whilst  a  perfect  tempest  of  shrapnel  raged  above  and 
behind  them.  As  they  came  into  sight  of  the  Germans 
again,  on  the  slope  just  below  Ligny,  the  enemy  redoubled 
his  fire,  inflicting  considerable  loss,  and  when  at  last  the 
rear  guard  withdrew  from  the  "  Quarry,"  the  German 
infantrymen^  sprang  up  from  their  concealed  positions  and 
rushed  forward  in  pursuit.  Their  ranks  were  instantly  torn 
and  mangled  by  the  British  guns  ;  but  they  speedily  rallied 
and  continued  the  advance  regardless  of  losses.  Before 
the  11th  Brigade  could  be  completely  re-formed,  they 
swarmed  forward  to  the  attack  of  Ligny.  Met  by  shrapnel 
and  rapid  fire,  they  turned,  unable  to  persist  against  the 
hail  of  bullets.  Reinforced,  they  advanced  again,  only  to 
suffer  still  more  heavily  ;  for  the  British  were  now  better 
prepared  to  receive  them.  They  fell  back  again,  too  severely 
punished  to  find  heart  for  a  third  attempt,  and  the  4th 
Division  was  left  in  undisputed  possession  of  Ligny.  These 
actions  hardly  came  to  a  complete  end  before  5  p.m. 

It  was  during  this  turmoil  on  his  left  that  shortly  after 

^  The  3rd,  9th  and  10th  Jdger  and  19th  Cavalry  Brigade,  according  to 
Poseck,  pp.  59,  60. 


THE  LEFT  OF  THE  LINE  183 

3  P.M.  General  Hubert  Hamilton  rode  down  from  Bertry  26  Aug. 
to  Lieut. -Colonel  W.  D.  Bird,  who  was  with  his  battalion  ^^^^^ 
of  Irish  Rifles  at  Troncquoy,  and  directed  him  to  take 
command  of  the  7th  Brigade,  since  Br.-General  McCracken 
had  been  stunned  by  a  shell,  and  to  withdraw  the  troops 
from  Caudry  under  cover  of  the  Irish  Rifles  and  two  field 
batteries.  Colonel  Bird  made  his  dispositions  accordingly, 
and  by  4.30  p.m.  the  companies  which  had  reoccupied  it 
were  practically  clear  of  the  village.  At  that  hour  the 
troops  in  Audencourt,  on  the  east  of  Caudry,  suddenly  fell 
back.  About  3.30  p.m.  the  8th  Brigade  had  received  its 
in^ructions  to  retire,  but  there  had  been  difficulty  and 
delay  in  communicating  orders  to  the  various  units,  and 
it  is  certain  that  some  of  them  received  none  at  all.  The 
4/Middlesex  and  the  Royal  Scots,  with  the  exception  of  a 
detached  party  of  the  latter  on  the  immediate  right  of  the 
Gordons,  were  withdrawn  without  much  difficulty.  The 
party  above  named,  together  with  the  bulk  of  the  Gordons, 
and  two  companies  of  the  Royal  Irish,  having  no  orders  to 
move,  remained  in  their  positions.  Three  platoons  of  the 
Gordons,  however,  heard  of  the  order  to  retire,  and  man- 
aged to  get  away,  as  also  did  the  reserve  companies  of  the 
Royal  Irish.  These  last  were  obliged  to  fight  hard  to 
extricate  themselves  and  the  batteries  of  the  XL.  Brigade 
R.F.A.  ;  ^  but  three  guns  of  the  6th  Battery  were  lost,  the 
teams  being  shot  down  by  a  lucky  salvo  whilst  in  the  act  of 
withdrawing.  Two  platoons  of  the  Royal  Irish  also  were 
cut  off  from  their  main  body,  but  contrived  to  make  good 
their  retreat  independently.  Meanwhile  since  2.30  p.m. 
Audencourt  had  been  furiously  bombarded  by  4-2-inch 
and  5-9-inch  howitzers,  and  the  vehicles  and  horses  of 
8th  Brigade  headquarters,  and  the  whole  of  the  brigade 
machine  guns  and  transport  were  lost.  The  enemy,  how- 
ever, made  no  attempt  to  advance.  The  41st  Battery, 
working  with  Colonel  Bird,  opened  fire  on  the  glacis  east 
of  Caudry,  as  soon  as  our  troops  were  clear  of  it ;  but,  so 
far  as  can  be  gathered,  there  was  at  the  time  not  a  single 
German  upon  this  ground.  Half  an  hour  later,  however,  at 
5  P.M.  the  German  infantrymen  did  swarm  forward,  toiling 
painfully  up  a  gentle  slope  through  beetroot  which  reached 
to  their  knees.  Whether  they  expected  opposition  or  not 
is  hard  to  say,  but  they  were  met  by  the  rapid  fire  of 
the  Gordon  Highlanders  and  Royal  Scots,  who  shot  them 

^  Their  adversaries  were  two  brigades  of  the  9th  Cavalry  Division,  the 
three  of  the  4th  (Poseck,  pp.  61,  62),  and  the  right  of  the  93rd  Regiment. 


184  LE  CATEAU  (NOON  TILL  5  P.M.) 

down  at  a  range  of  from  four  to  six  hundred  yards  with 
the  greatest  coolness.  One  subaltern  of  the  Roj^al  Scots 
reckoned  that  he  hit  thirty  to  forty  of  them  himself.  The 
Germans  were  unable  to  gain  an  inch  of  ground  ;  for  the 
best  part  of  an  hour  they  swayed  backwards  and  forwards 
in  front  of  these  few  isolated  groups,  probably  exaggerating 
their  strength  both  in  men  and  machine  guns,  but  com- 
pletely at  a  loss  how  to  clear  them  out  of  the  way. 

The  rest  of  the  8th  Brigade,  having  re-formed  in  dead 
ground,  took  the  road  to  Montigny,  and  Colonel  Bird, 
after  waiting  for  fully  twenty  minutes  without  seeing  a 
sign  either  of  retreating  British  or  advancing  Germans, 
led  back  the  7th  Brigade  soon  after  5  p.m.  by  the  same  road, 
without  the  slightest  interference  on  the  part  of  the  enemy. 

Map  3.  Thus  by  5  p.m.,  roughly  speaking,  the  whole  of  the  II. 
Corps  had  begun  its  retreat  and  its  rear  guards  were  all  in 
position,  and  the  moment  had  come  for  the  4th  Division, 
which  was  on  its  left,  to  move  off.  There  was  no  time  to 
lose.  For,  although  the  right  of  the  division  was  for  the 
moment  secure  after  the  double  repulse  of  the  German 
attack  upon  Ligny,  masses  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  ^  were 
now  arriving  from  the  direction  of  Cattenieres — Wambaix. 
Sketch  7.  The  appearance  of  Sordet's  cavalry  in  the  left  rear  of 
Map  11.  ii^Q  4tJi  Division  now  provided  a  most  opportune  diversion. 
General  Smith-Dorrien  had  naturally  counted  on  this  co- 
operation, and  General  Sordet,  having  visited  Sir  John 
French  at  9  a.m.,  was  fully  conversant  with  the  situation. 
His  corps  on  the  night  of  the  24th/25th  had  bivouacked 
near  Avesnes — Dompierre,  and  on  the  25th  moved  more 
than  thirty  miles  across  the  line  of  march  of  the  B.E.F.  in 
order  to  reach  its  left  flank.  It  arrived  late  at  night  in 
the  neighbourhood  of  Walincourt,  about  ten  miles  west 
by  south  of  Le  Cateau,  men  and  horses  dog-tired  and 
soaked  with  rain.  Of  its  three  divisions,  the  5th  halted 
for  the  night  in  and  about  Esnes,  the  1st  at  Lesdain  and 
the  3rd  at  Le  Bosquet  (3  miles  south-west  of  Esnes).  The 
corps  moved  out  to  the  south  of  Cambrai  on  the  morning 
of  the  26th  in  observation  of  the  ground  on  the  left  rear 
of  the   British  and  of  the  southern  exits  from  Cambrai. 

^  The  7th  Reserve  Division ;  see  Hauptmann  Wirth's  "  Von  der  Saale 
zur  Aisne."  He  states  that  the  advanced  guard  of  the  division  reached 
the  Cambrai  high  road  nortli  of  Cattenieres  about  2  p.m.  Tlie  guns  had 
been  sent  on  ahead  and  were  already  in  action.  (See  page  168,  f.n.  1.) 
He  adds  that  the  German  "  cavalry  had  been  thrown  on  the  defensive  and 
several  regiments  were  cowering  under  cover  beliind  the  houses." 


SORDET'S  CAVALRY  185 

There,  about  1  p.m.,  General  Sordet  received  the  following  26  Aug. 
message  from  Colonel  Huguet  of  the  French  Mission  at  ^^i*- 
G.H.Q.^ :  "General  Joffre  requests  that  you  will  not 
"  only  cover  the  left  of  the  British  Army,  but  do  more  Map  3. 
"  and  intervene  in  the  battle  with  all  the  forces  at  your 
"  disposal."  At  1.30  p.m.,  therefore,  General  Sordet  issued 
orders  for  his  three  divisions  to  recross  the  Schelde,  the 
5th  at  Crevecoeur,  the  3rd  at  Masnieres,  and  the  1st  at 
Marcoing,  sending  reconnaissance  parties  ahead. ^  To- 
wards 4  P.M.,  when  the  divisions  of  the  German  IV.  Re- 
serve Corps  ^  were  crossing  the  front  of  the  French  cavalry, 
the  artillery  of  the  latter  came  successively  into  action 
and  took  the  Germans  in  flank,  whilst  cyclists  engaged 
them  with  success  near  Seranvillers  (2  miles  north-west  of 
Esnes).  It  was  this  gun  fire  which  was  heard  by  General 
Smith-Dorrien  about  4.30  p.m.  as  he  was  moving  south 
from  Bertry  to  his  new  headquarters  at  St.  Quentin,  and, 
not  knowing  whether  the  sound  came  from  French  or 
German  artillery,  he  had  a  bad  moment.  Then,  galloping 
up  to  some  high  ground  near  Maretz,  he  was  able  to  satisfy 
himself  that  it  could  only  come  from  French  75's.^  Further, 
beyond  the  left  of  the  French  cavalry,  it  was  known  that 
troops  of  General  d'Amade  were  in  and  about  Cambrai.^ 
All,  therefore,  seemed  well,  and  the  British  left  flank  secure.® 

^  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  p.  49.  The  message  is  recorded  as  telephoned  at 
12.10  P.M. 

2  "  Historique  du  Corps  de  Cavalerie  Sordet,"  pp.  77-9. 

^  The  22nd  Reserve  Division  had  followed  the  7th,  and  advanced  on  its 
right. 

*  The  action  was  broken  off  by  General  Sordet  at  6.30  p.m.  and  the 
cavalry  corps  retired  so  as  to  cover  the  British  left  ;  it  reached  the  area 
north-west  of  Villers  Fau9on  (15  miles  south  by  west  of  Cambrai),  with 
the  horses  completely  exhausted.    [F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  p.  40.] 

5  See  Note  II  at  end  of  Chapter  IX. 

8  Lieut. -Colonel  F.  G.  Anley,  commanding  2/Essex  Regiment  on  the 
left  of  the  line,  received  two  direct  reports  from  the  French  cavalry,  one 
about  ten  minutes  before  the  attack  opened,  and  another  about  noon, 
both  saying  that  the  French  were  maintaining  their  position.  He,  most  un- 
fortunately, failed  to  get  either  of  these  messages  through  to  12th  Brigade 
headquarters. 


CHAPTER  IX 

THE  CLOSE  OF  THE  BATTLE  OF  LE  CATEAU 

(Sketches  A,  4,  6  ife  7  ;  Maps  3,  4,  9,  10,  11  &  13) 

5  P.M.  TO  Nightfall 

The  party  of  the  Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders  (19th 
Brigade),!  together  with  the  59th  Field  Company  R.E.  and 
a  collection  of  scattered  men,  last  mentioned  as  being  on 
the  right,  was  deployed  upon  the  spur  that  runs  south- 
eastward from  Reumont.  The  Royal  Welch  Fusiliers, 
Cameronians  (both  of  the  19th  Brigade,  from  Montigny), 
D.C.L.I.  and  half  the  East  Surrey  (14th  Brigade),  Norfolk 
(15th  Brigade)  and  one  60-pdr.  of  the  108th  Heavy  Battery 
were  in  rear  of  it,  between  Maurois  and  Honnechy.  The 
Bays  (1st  Cavalry  Brigade),  with  E  and  L  Batteries,  were 
at  Escaufourt,  E  Battery  being  in  action  against  the  guns 
which  were  endeavouring  to  cover  the  advance  of  the  German 
infantry  up  the  valley  of  the  Rivierette  des  Essarts.  This 
infantry  now  extended  across  the  Roman  road  on  the  High- 
landers' left  front,  and,  advancing  in  open  order  with  company 
columns  in  rear,  was  engaged  by  the  party  at  a  thousand 
yards  range.  The  enemy  made  no  great  progress,  for  the 
party  had  plenty  of  ammunition,  and  there  was  no  im- 
mediate reason  why  it  should  fall  back.  After  a  time, 
however — about  5.30  p.m.— Lieut.-Colonel  B.  E.  Ward  of 
the  1 /Middlesex  (19th  Brigade)  led  his  own  battalion,  which 
had  been  halted  east  of  Reumont  in  the  valley  of  the 
Rivierette  des  Essarts,  and  the  various  detachments  on 
the  spur  near  by,  towards  Reumont  and  the  Roman  road, 
detailing  the  Highlanders  to  act  as  his  rear  guard.  The 
whole,  therefore,  moved  off  in  succession,  skirting  Reumont, 
where  German  shells  were  now  falling  thickly  ;  the  rear 
guard  had  no  sooner  quitted  its  position  than  the  German 

1  See  page  176. 
186 


THE  5th  division  187 

artillery  searched  the  deserted  spur  with  a  hail  of  shrapnel.  26  Aug. 
A  company  and  a  half  of  the  Norfolk,  sheltered  in  a  quarry  1914. 
to  the  south-west  of  Reumont,  were  now  left  as  the  troops 
nearest  to  the  enemy  ;  for  about  this  time  the  cavalry  and 
horse  artillery  also  began  to  fall  back  slowly  from  Escau- 
fourt  towards  Busigny  (6  miles  S.S.W.  of  Le  Cateau), 
leaving  the  passage  up  the  valley  towards  Honnechy  open 
to  the  enemy.  The  Norfolk  opened  fire  at  a  range  of  about 
1,800  yards  on  the  German  infantry  in  extended  order  to 
the  north-east,  and  in  due  time  retired  to  the  edge  of 
Honnechy,  passing  as  they  went  through  a  company  of  the 
R.  Welch  Fusihers,  which  had  been  deployed  to  take  over 
rear  guard  from  them. 

From  this  point  the  Norfolk  companies  had  a  clearer 
view  of  German  columns,  both  of  infantry  and  artillery, 
advancing  on  the  road  up  the  valley  of  the  Rivierette, 
preceded  by  lines  of  skirmishers.  They  engaged  them  at 
long  range,  and  the  solitary  60-pdr.  of  the  108th  Heavy 
Battery,  having  no  shrapnel  left,  opened  fire  with  lyddite. 
Major  G.  H.  Sanders  commanding  the  122nd  Field  Battery, 
having  followed  his  two  remaining  guns  to  Reumont,  col- 
lected two  ammunition  wagons,  unlimbered  south  of  the 
village,  and  also  opened  fire  on  the  enemy  columns. 

The  Germans  had  by  this  time  advanced  up  the  valley 
to  the  point  where  the  road  from  Reumont  to  St.  Souplet 
intersects  that  from  Le  Cateau  to  Busigny  ;  but  there,  to 
the  great  surprise  of  the  Norfolk,  they  stopped  and  showed 
themselves  no  more.^ 

It  was  now  fully  6  p.m.  A  drizzhng  rain  had  just  set 
in,  and  the  light  was  beginning  to  fail  early.  The  enemy's 
pursuit  seemed  to  die  away.  His  guns  did  indeed  shell  the 
position  of  the  R.  Welch  Fusiliers  ;  but,  instead  of  heavy 
masses  of  infantry,  small  parties  of  cavalry  now  hovered 
about  the  front,  feeling  their  way  forward  and  provoking 
constant  little  bursts  of  fire  from  the  British  rear  guards, 
which  in  the  meanwhile  continued  to  fall  back  in  succession 
as  the  Roman  road  gradually  became  clear  for  them.  The 
congestion  on  that  road  was  considerable,  for  it  was  packed 

1  It  appears  from  regimental  histories  that  two  battalions  of  the  7th 
Division  reached  Honnechy  just  in  time  to  exchange  shots  with  the  British 
rear  guard.  The  troops  of  the  division  then  received  orders  to  halt  and 
clear  the  road  for  the  III.  Corps  to  pursue.  But  the  leading  battalion  of 
this  corps  did  not  reach  Honnechy  until  midnight  ("  Leib  Gren.  Regt. 
No.  8,"  p.  62).  Kluck  states  truly  that  "  the  latter  [///.]  Corps,  ordered 
"  to  march  on  Maretz,  did  not  get  further  than  Honnechy  on  the  26th, 
'  so  that  the  attempted  enveloping  movement  failed." 


188         LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

with  infantry,  guns,  transport  and  ambulances  of  the  5th 
Division  and  the  19th  Brigade  in  no  fixed  order,  just  as  each 
Map  3,  unit  had  happened  to  strike  the  highway.  There  was  some 
confusion,  but  the  men  marched  on  steadily  and  in  silence. 
A  few  units — the  1 /Middlesex  and  a  number  of  scattered 
men  under  Lieut. -Colonel  H.  P.  Moulton-Barrett  of  the 
Argyll  and  Sutherland  Highlanders — made  their  way  by  two 
parallel  tracks,  east  of  the  Roman  road,  to  Busigny,  where 
the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  was  in  position  to  cover  them,  and 
thence  turned  westward  into  the  Roman  road.  At  7  p.m. 
or  a  little  later,  German  cavalry  patrols  ran  into  parties  of 
the  11th  and  19th  Hussars  north  of  Busigny,  and  men  of  the 
former  regiment  were  shelled  while  crossing  the  railway 
near  Busigny  station.  The  Duke  of  Cornwall's  L.I.,  the 
two  companies  of  the  East  Surrey  which  were  with  them, 
the  R.  Welch  Fusiliers  and  the  Cameronians  moved  back 
steadily  from  position  to  position  and  arrived  at  Maretz, 
almost  without  firing  a  shot  ;  the  Cameronians  waited  at 
Maretz  until  9.30  p.m.  without  seeing  a  sign  of  the  enemy. 
Hostile  pursuit,  worthy  of  the  name,  had  ceased  after 
6  P.M.  ;  in  fact,  contact  was  practically  lost  as  darkness  fell. 
The  whole  of  the  5th  Division  and  the  19th  Brigade  were 
now  in  retreat  along  the  Roman  road  ;  their  right  flank, 
which  had  been  exposed  all  day,  was  no  longer  threatened. 

The  narrative  left  the  3rd  Division  with  two  companies 
of  the  Royal  Irish,  some  of  the  Royal  Scots  and  the  greater 
part  of  the  Gordon  Highlanders  still  occupying  their  original 
ground  in  front  of  Audencourt,  having  received  no  orders  to 
retire,  and  successfully  arresting  any  German  advance  ;  the 
9th  Brigade  was  in  a  covering  position  between  Bertry  and 
Montigny  (2  miles  south  of  Caudry)  ;  and  the  bulk  of  the 
7th  and  8th  were  in  orderly  retreat  on  Montigny.  These 
Map  3.  two  latter  formations  passed  through  the  9th  Brigade 
and  marched  away  to  Clary,  making  south-westwards  for 
Beaurevoir  (13  miles  south-west  of  Le  Cateau)  by  way  of 
Elincourt  and  Malincourt.  Not  a  German,  not  even  a 
cavalry  patrol,  follow^ed  them  ;  and  not  a  shell  was  fired 
at  the  9th  Brigade,  which  at  6  p.m.  became  the  rear  guard 
to  the  3rd  Division.  Evidently  the  enemy  was  wholly 
occupied  with  the  detachments — not  a  thousand  strong,  all 
told — which  had  not  retired  from  the  original  fighting  line. 
At  6  P.M.,  after  an  hour  spent  in  vain  and  costly  attempts 
to  break  through  the  Gordons,  his  fire  died  down,  but  began 
again  twenty  minutes  later,  as  he  tried  to  work  round  the 


THE  3rd  and  4th  DIVISIONS  189 

right  of  the  Royal  Scots.  This  was  however  foiled  by  the  26  Aug. 
oblique  fire  of  the  right  company  of  the  Gordons,  across  1914. 
the  front  of  the  Royal  Scots  ;  and  at  6.45  p.m.  the  Germans 
once  again  concentrated  a  heavy  howitzer  bombardment 
upon  Audencourt.  As  darkness  came  down  the  firing  died 
aAvay  into  occasional  fitful  bursts  ;  but  at  8.30  p.m.  the 
German  guns  once  more  heaped  shells  upon  Audencourt, 
not  a  little  to  the  wonder  of  the  3rd  Division,  which,  from 
the  heights  south  of  Clary  some  six  miles  away,  watched 
the  projectiles  bursting  over  its  deserted  position  with  grim 
satisfaction.  Thus  the  British  centre  had  been  withdrawn, 
from  under  the  very  eyes  of  the  Germans,  with  very  little 
difficulty  and  no  serious  loss. 

In  the  4th  Division  the  infantry  brigadiers  received  their  Sketch  7. 
orders  to  retreat  about  5  p.m.,  the  10th  Brigade  being  ''^^^P  ^^• 
detailed  as  rear  guard.  At  that  hour  the  German  Jdger 
to  the  immediate  front  of  the  line  were  still  quiescent  from 
the  effects  of  their  repulse  before  Ligny  ;  but  the  volume 
of  hostile  artillery  fire  had  continued  steadily  to  increase, 
and  the  turning  movement  round  the  western  flank  of 
Esnes  had  been  renewed  and  pressed  until  the  Inniskillings 
had  been  forced  back  to  the  western  fringe  of  the  village. 
The  units  of  the  10th  and  12th  Brigades  were  so  intermixed 
that  the  transmission  of  orders  was  exceedingly  difficult  ; 
but  the  sound  of  General  Sordet's  guns  about  Crevecoeur 
(2|  miles  west  of  Esnes)  gave  assurance  that  the  division 
could  retire  without  fear  of  serious  attack  on  its  western 
flank.  The  R.  Irish  Fusiliers  and  Seaforth  Highlanders 
were  already  in  position  behind  this  flank,  south-west  of 
St.  Aubert  Farm,  and,  with  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade  further 
east  near  Selvigny,  were  thus  ready  to  cover  the  first  stage 
of  the  retreat.  Artillery  support  was  also  close  at  hand, 
for,  meantime,  Br. -General  Milne,  having  had  early  warning 
of  the  intention  to  break  off  the  action,  had  made  general 
arrangements  for  the  retirement  of  the  artillery  to  a  suc- 
cession of  covering  positions.  After  the  heavy  attack  on 
Caudry  about  2  p.m.  the  XXIX.  Brigade  R.F.A.  had  re- 
tired to  a  position  in  the  Iris  valley  between  Caullery  and 
Selvigny  (2  miles  S.S.W.  of  Ligny),  and  the  XIV.  Brigade 
had  moved  back  about  the  same  time  to  another  one 
immediately  north  of  Selvigny.  About  4  p.m.  the  35th 
(Howitzer)  Battery  had  been  ordered  back  behind  the  rail- 
way, so  as  to  be  prepared  to  cover  the  retirement  of  the 
remainder  of  its  brigade,  which  was  ready  to  do  the  same 


190        LE  CATEAU  (5  P.M.  TO  NIGHTFALL) 

service  for  the  XXXII.  Brigade,  still  south-west  of  Ligny. 
At  4.30  P.M.  orders  were  given  for  the  brigade  ammunition 
columns  to  get  clear  and  join  the  route  of  the  main  column 
at  Walincourt  (3  miles  S.S.W.  of  Ligny).  About  5  p.m.  the 
31st  and  55th  (Howitzer)  Batteries  were  withdrawn  to  the 
south  of  Selvigny,  where  the  35th  Battery  joined  them. 

It  is  difficult  to  ascertain  which  of  the  infantry  was 
the  first  to  be  withdrawn  ;  but  it  seems  that  part  of  the 
12th  Brigade,  the  Essex  and  the  two  forward  companies 
of  the  Inniskillings,  moved  off  soon  after  5  p.m.,  halting 
and  facing  about  on  the  road  between  Selvigny  and 
Guillemin.  The  Lancashire  Fusiliers,  half  of  the  Dublin 
Fusiliers  (10th  Brigade),  and  part  of  the  King's  Own  appear 
to  have  started  rather  later,  though  half  of  the  King's  Own, 
receiving  no  warning  to  retire,  remained  in  position  at 
Haucourt.  The  rest  of  the  Inniskillings  slipped  away  from 
Esnes  in  small  parties,  just  as  the  infantry  of  the  7th  Reserve 
Division  penetrated  to  the  western  houses  of  the  village, 
and  retreated  upon  Walincourt  in  good  order.  The  enemy 
artillery  searched  the  road  with  shrapnel,  but  the  British 
columns  moved  on  either  side  of  it  and  escaped  all  damage. 

The  11th  Brigade  and  the  remainder  of  the  12th,  much 
scattered,  held  their  positions  until  6  p.m.  or  even  later. 
The  135th  Battery  (XXXII.  Brigade  R.F.A.),  which  was 
in  close  support  of  the  infantry  near  Ligny,  was  so  exposed 
that  its  withdrawal  seemed  impossible,  and  orders  were 
actually  issued  that  the  guns  should  be  abandoned ;  but 
the  battery  commander,  Major  C.  H.  Liveing,^  decided  to 
try  and  save  his  guns  and,  withdrawing  them  and  their 
wagons  by  hand,  brought  all  of  them  except  one  wagon 
safely  away.  To  the  west  of  Ligny  the  position  of  the 
27th  Battery  (XXXII.  Brigade  R.F.A.)  was  even  worse  ; 
nevertheless,  the  gunners,  taking  advantage  of  every  lull, 
had  succeeded  in  running  back  four  guns  and  limbers  to 
the  sunken  road  in  rear  when  increase  in  the  German  artil- 
lery fire  compelled  them  to  abandon  the  remaining  two. 
The  battery  then  formed  up  and  awaited  its  opportunity  : 
eventually  it  made  a  dash  to  the  south-west,  and,  though  it 
was  pursued  by  German  shells,  got  its  four  guns  safely  away.^ 

Of  the  11th  Brigade,  Lieut. -Colonel  E.  H.  Swayne  of 
the  Somerset  L.I.  brought  away  with  him  what  survived 
of  two  companies  ;    the  rest  of  the  battalion  under  Major 

^  He  was  awarded  the  D.S.O. 

^  The  battery  commander,  Major  H.  E.  Vallentin,  received  the  D.S.O., 
and  two  sergeants  and  five  gunners,  the  D.C.M. 


THE  4th  division  191 

C.  B.  Prowse,  having  become  separated  from  him,  remained  26  Aug. 
fighting  at  Ligny  until  a  late  hour.  The  East  Lancashire  i^^"*- 
withdrew  in  three  distinct  bodies,  two  of  which  united  at 
Clary.  The  main  body  of  the  1 /Rifle  Brigade  made  its 
way  to  Selvigny  and  took  up  a  covering  position  there, 
whilst  another  party,  with  scattered  men  of  other  regiments, 
came  later  to  the  same  village  with  Br. -General  Hunter- 
Weston.  Last  of  all  the  Hampshire  retired,  about  7  p.m., 
and  overtook  the  rest  of  the  brigade  on  its  way  to  Serain 
(4  miles  south  of  Selvigny),  where  it  passed  the  night.  Of 
the  10th  Brigade,  only  the  Seaforth  Highlanders  and  the 
Irish  Fusiliers  were  under  Br. -General  Haldane's  hand. 
Half  of  the  Warwickshire  and  a  good  number  of  the  Dublin 
Fusiliers  were  still  in  Haucourt,  and  the  remainder  were 
dispersed  in  various  directions,  some  as  escort  to  guns, 
others  in  small  isolated  bodies. 

As  with  the  rest  of  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien's  force, 
the  enemy  not  only  did  not  pursue  the  4th  Division,  but 
did  very  little  even  to  eixibarrass  the  retreat.  The  1 /Rifle 
Brigade,  the  rear  guard  of  the  11th  Brigade,  and  the  com- 
posite party  with  it,  finding  the  roads  blocked  in  every 
direction,  bivouacked  at  Selvigny,  within  two  miles  of  the 
battlefield,  and  the  Irish  Fusiliers  and  Seaforths  were 
almost  level  with  them  on  the  east,  at  Hurtevent  Farm. 
The  remainder  were  directed  on  through  Walincourt,  by  Map  3. 
way  of  Malincourt — where  a  divisional  column  of  march 
was  made  up  with  the  artillery — and  Aubencheul,  to  Vend- 
huille  (2  miles  north-west  of  Le  Catelet).  German  shells, 
as  we  have  seen,  followed  the  British  as  long  as  they  were 
within  sight  and  range,  and  caused  a  few  casualties,  though 
not  many  ;  the  guns  also  bombarded  the  evacuated  posi- 
tions with  great  fury  until  dark  ;  but  the  cavalry  and 
infantry  made  no  attempt  to  press  on.  In  fact,  Smith- 
Dorrien's  troops  had  done  what  G.H.Q.  feared  was  im- 
possible. With  both  flanks  more  or  less  in  the  air,  they 
had  turned  upon  an  enemy  of  at  least  twice  their  strength  ; 
had  struck  him  hard,  and  had  withdrawn,  except  on  the 
right  front  of  the  5th  Division,  practically  without  inter- 
ference, with  neither  flank  enveloped,  having  suffered 
losses  certainly  severe,  but,  considering  the  circumstances, 
by  no  means  extravagant.^  The  men  after  their  magnificent 

^  The  total  losses,  after  the  stragglers  had  come  in,  were  7,812  men 
and  38  guns,  including  one  60-pdr.  abandoned  (for  details  see  Note  IV. 
at  end  of  Chapter  X.). 

General  von   Zwehl   stated   in   the   Militdr   Wochenblatt  of  the   30th 


192  LE  CATEAU 

rifle-shooting  looked  upon  themselves  as  victors ;  some 
indeed  doubted  whether  they  had  been  in  a  serious  action. 
Yet  they  had  inflicted  upon  the  enemy  casualties  never 
revealed,  which  are  believed  to  have  been  out  of  all  pro- 
portion to  their  own  ;  and  they  had  completely  foiled  the 
plan  of  the  German  commander  and  of  O.H.L. 

The  suggestion  has  been  made  that  the  battle  might 
have  been  avoided  if  G.H.Q.  had  ordered  General  Smith- 
Dorrien  to  continue  his  retreat  and  had  detailed  the  4th 
Division  as  rear  guard  to  cover  the  movement.  It  will, 
however,  be  recalled  that  only  the  infantry  and  field 
artillery  of  the  4th  Division  were  present  on  the  field. 
Without  cavalry,  heavy  battery,  cyclists,  engineers  and 
signal  company,  it  would  have  been  difficult  for  Major- 
General  Snow  to  carry  out  a  step-by-step  retirement  in 
the  face  of  the  very  superior  number  of  German  troops 
— three  cavalry  divisions  and  the  IV.  Corps — who  were 
immediately  available  to  deal  with  opposition.  There  is 
a  consensus  of  opinion  among  the  officers  of  the  4th 
Division  that,  had  not  the  II.  Corps  stayed  to  fight,  the 
division,  whether  appointed  rear  guard  or  not,  would  have 
been  destroyed.^ 

It  has  also  been  suggested  that  General  Smith-Dorrien 
might  have  ordered  the  retirement  during  the  lull  in  the 
fighting  about  1  p.m.  Withdrawal  might  have  been  begun 
then  with  the  greatest  ease  ;  but  in  the  several  hours  of 
daylight  which  remained  the  real  direction  of  retirement 
would  have  been  noticed  by  the  enemy  ;  in  the  middle 
of  the  day  his  units  were  not  only  fresher  but  were  not 
yet  disorganized  as  a  result  of  heavy  fighting,  and  in  all 
probabihty  there  would  have  been  a  close  and  disastrous 
pursuit. 

Could  the  5th  Division  have  stood  until  dusk,  or  had 
the  I.  Corps  given  some  assistance,  there  might  have  been 
fewer  losses  ;     for   the  missing  were  largely  made  up  of 


September  1919  that  the  prisoners  taken,  who  included  wounded,  were 
2, GOO  ;  and  this  is  confirmed  by  Kluck.  The  surprise  of  the  King's  Own 
in  the  early  morning  and  the  capture  of  the  1 /Gordon  Highlanders,  about 
to  be  described,  added  a  considerable  portion  to  the  total  casualties,  and 
might  have  been  avoided. 

^  Until  his  death.  General  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien  was  the  guest 
at  the  annual  dinner  of  the  4th  Division.  At  the  first  at  which  he  was 
present,  Lieut. -General  Sir  Thomas  Snow  thanked  him  on  behalf  of  the 
members  of  the  division  for  saving  them  from  death  or  captivity  on  the 
26th  August  1914. 


AIR  RECONNAISSANCE  193 

wounded  left  on  the  ground,  and  of  parties  which  did  not  26  Aug. 
receive  the  order  to  retire.  i^^'** 

In  the  circumstances,  General  Smith-Dorrien  was  fully 
justified  in  his  decision  to  fight,  and  he  was  wise  in  delaying 
the  retirement  to  the  latest  moment  compatible  with  the 
safety  of  his  force. 

A  number  of  air  reconnaissances  were  made  for  G.H.Q. 
during  the  fighting,  but  the  reports  were  not  forwarded 
to  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien.  One  airman,  however,  made 
a  forced  landing  near  him,  and  reported  three  German 
batteries  in  action  near  Forest.  For  the  first  time  airmen 
were  used  for  liaison  :  about  11.30  a.m.  one  machine  was 
sent  to  find  where  General  Haig  was,  and,  descending  near 
a  cavalry  patrol,  was  able  to  do  so  ;  another  was  sent  to 
General  Smith-Dorrien,  who  used  the  aviator  to  discover 
whether  there  was  any  menace  to  his  left  flank,  where  all 
was  found  well,  and,  later,  to  examine  his  right.  After 
this,  at  3  P.M.,  the  general  sent  him  back  to  G.H.Q.  to 
report  that  the  5th  Division  had  been  unable  to  withstand 
a  most  determined  artillery  bombardment,  and  was  retiring, 
but  would  get  away  somehow. 

The  air  reports  for  the  day,  owing  no  doubt  to  the  Map  3. 
retirement  of  G.H.Q.  from  St.  Quentin  to  Noyon  at  3.30 
P.M.,  were  not  summarized  :  indeed,  it  is  not  certain  when 
or  where  they  were  received.  They  were  valuable  both 
positively  and  negatively.  The  earliest  one,  7.45-10.30 
A.M.,  reported  a  British  battle  line  formed,  and  on  its  left 
rear  a  French  infantry  division  (really  cavalry)  in  bivouac 
near  Gauzeaucourt,  and  a  cavalry  division  moving  west- 
ward ;  further,  no  sign  of  any  enemy  west  of  a  line  through 
Cambrai — Le  Catelet.  The  next  reconnaissance  (8.15-9.45 
A.M.)  reported  a  column,  without  stating  nationality — 
it  was  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade — moving  from  Landrecies 
on  La  Groise  ;  German  columns  moving  south  on  Engel- 
fontaine  and  Solesmes ;  a  mixed  force  (it  must  have  been 
part  of  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps)  near  Carnieres  ;  and  Le 
Cateau  clear  of  troops  but  on  fire.  A  third  reconnaissance 
(9.55-11.15  A.M.)  discovered  troops  marching  south  from 
Valenciennes  (//.  Corps),  but  found  the  roads  to  the  north, 
except  for  transport,  and  to  the  east,  clear,  and  at  11  a.m. 
a  division  {7th  Reserve)  approaching  Carnieres  ;  the 
airman  landed  at  Bertry,  and  gave  this  information  to 
Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien.  A  fourth  reconnaissance  (11 
A.M.-1.40  P.M.)  reported  shells  bursting  along  the  whole 
battle  front,  and  Caudry  partly  in  flames.     The  airman 

VOL.  I  o 


194  LE  CATEAU 

saw  what  was  a  brigade  of  the  German  6th  Division  moving 
down  the  western  side  of  the  Forest  of  Mormal  ;  he  reported 
Le  Quesnoy  full  of  troops,  and  dropped  a  bomb  on  a  mass 
of  transport  ;  he  found  Valenciennes  and  roads  leading  into 
it  clear.  A  fifth  reconnaissance  (3.30-5.18  p.m.)  observed 
shells  bursting  on  Troisvilles,  and  Caudry  on  fire,  and 
reported  that  one  battery  just  east  of  Audencourt  was  all 
that  could  be  seen  of  British  troops  on  the  battlefield  : 
but  along  the  ridge  north  of  the  Le  Cateau — Cambrai  road 
there  was  visible  a  line  of  German  infantry  in  close  forma- 
tion (local  reserves  no  doubt) :  and  one  German  infantry 
regiment,  moving  south-west  of  Estournel  (probably  part 
of  the  22nd  Reserve  Division),  was  outflanking  the  British 
left  :  later  it  was  added  that  behind  the  British  line  re- 
tirement appeared  general  but  orderly,  and  mainly  down 
the  Roman  road  :  the  final  entry  at  5.18  p.m.  was  that  no 
infantry  could  now  be  seen  engaged,  but  there  was  a  good 
deal  of  artillery  fire,  principally  from  the  Germans. 

These  reports,  combined  with  what  was  known  of  the 
British  troops  and  of  the  previous  moves  of  the  Germans, 
should  have  given  G.H.Q.  a  fairly  clear  picture  of  the 
situation. 

There  can  be  little  doubt  that  the  comparative 
ease  with  which  the  first  stages  of  the  retreat  were  ac- 
complished was  due  to  the  tenacity  of  the  units  which, 
having  received  no  order  to  retire,  clung  with  all  their 
strength  to  the  positions  they  had  been  ordered  to  hold. 
The  story  of  the  Suffolk  and  the  K.O.Y.L.I.  has  already 
been  related  ;  it  now  remains  to  tell  that  of  the  isolated 
detachments  of  the  3rd  and  4th  Divisions.  Some  time 
after  dark,  firing  having  ceased,  it  became  known  to  Lieut.- 
Colonel  F.  H.  Neish  of  the  Gordons  that  an  order  had  been 
shouted  or  signalled  by  two  staff  officers  to  different  parts 
of  the  line  for  the  8th  Brigade  to  retire,  and  that  a  signal 
to  retire  had  been  seen  by  one  of  his  own  junior  officers  ; 
but  that  the  order  had  not  reached  his  own  regiment, 
the  company  of  the  Royal  Scots  which  lay  on  its  right 
and  two  companies  of  the  Royal  Irish  on  its  left.  At  7.45 
P.M.  Brevet-Colonel  W.  E.  Gordon,  V.C.,  of  the  Gordon 
Highlanders,  being  the  senior  officer  in  army  rank,  assumed 
command  of  the  whole  of  these  troops  ;  but  at  9.20  p.m. 
Colonel  Neish  sent  an  officer  and  two  men  to  Troisvilles 
to  obtain  orders,  if  possible,  from  the  headquarters  of 
the  3rd  Division.     This  officer  not  returning  within  the 


TROOPS  LEFT  ON  THE  BATTLEFIELD      195 

allotted  time  of  two  hours — he  had  fallen  into  the  hands  27  Aug. 
of  the  enemy  at  Troisvilles — Colonel  Gordon  assembled  ^^^^* 
his  force  towards  Caudry  at  midnight,  and  at  12.30  a.m. 
marched  off,  quite  undisturbed,  through  Audencourt. 
All  was  quiet  in  the  village,  and  at  1.30  a.m.  the  head  of  the 
column  reached  Montigny.  Here  a  light  was  seen  in  a 
cottage,  and  the  occupants  reported  that  early  in  the 
morning  the  British  troops  had  moved  on  Bertry  and 
Maurois.  A  man  was  ordered  to  guide  the  party  through 
Montigny  on  to  the  road  to  Bertry,  which  he  did  ;  and 
at  2  A.M.  the  head  of  the  column  reached  the  cross  roads 
to  the  south-west  of  Bertry.  Here  three  shots  were  fired, 
and  after  a  few  minutes'  delay,  during  which  the  ad- 
vanced guard  endeavoured  to  ascertain  the  nationality  of 
the  post,  there  was  a  heavy  outbreak  of  rifle  fire.  The 
men  were  extended,  and  answered  it.  Orders  were  then 
given  for  the  column  to  move  back  along  the  road  to 
Montigny.  But  in  the  darkness  the  road  south-westward 
to  Clary  was  taken  instead,  and  the  column  came  upon  a 
field  gun  which  was  trained  to  fire  down  the  highway. 
This  gun  was  rushed  and  taken  before  it  could  be  discharged, 
and  a  mounted  German  officer  near  it  was  pulled  off  his 
horse,  but  the  rear  of  the  column  now  received  rifle  fire 
from  the  south  and  south-west.  Once  again  the  men  were 
extended  and  replied,  but  the  fire  from  the  front  and 
rear  showed  them  pretty  clearly  that  they  were  trapped. 
The  head  of  the  column  now  made  an  effort  to  force  its 
way  into  Clary,  and  stormed  a  house  on  the  outskirts  of 
the  village,  in  which  were  a  number  of  German  officers. 
The  enemy,  however,  was  by  this  time  thoroughly  alarmed. 
Firing  began  on  all  sides,  and  after  fighting  against  hopeless 
odds  for  the  best  part  of  an  hour  longer,  the  Gordons,  and 
the  parties  with  them,  were  overpowered.  Their  captors 
were  the  66th  Regiment  {IV.  Corps),  which  had  engaged  the 
13th  Brigade  near  Le  Cateau.^ 

Of  the  Gordon  Highlanders  about  five  hundred  were 
taken,  but  a  few  escaped,  and  a  handful  of  them  actually 
made  their  way  through  the  German  lines  to  Antwerp, 

1  "  Regt.  No.  66  "  (pp.  37-9)  confirms  this  account.  It  states  that 
tlie  fight  at  Clary  lasted  an  hour.  "  A  hurricane  of  fire  was  directed  on 
"  the  British.  .  .  .  Their  losses  were  frightful,"  and  there  were  "  consider- 
"  able  losses  on  the  German  side."  Seven  hundred  prisoners  of  ten  or 
eleven  different  regiments,  including  artillery,  are  said  to  have  been 
captured.  The  72nd  arrived  from  Troisvilles  after  the  fight,  at  7.30  a.m.  ; 
its  history  (p.  73)  speaks  of  "  uncounted  bodies  of  Highlanders,  who  had 
"  been  surprised  in  the  early  morning,  lying  along  the  road." 


196  LE  CATEAU 

whence  they  were  sent  back  to  England.  The  fortune  of 
war  was  hard  upon  the  1 /Gordons.  For  the  time  they 
practically  ceased  to  exist  as  a  battalion,  but  by  their 
gallant  resistance  to  all  German  attacks  between  5  p.m.  and 
dark  on  the  26th  August  they  had  rendered  incalculable 
service  to  the  3rd  Division  and  to  the  Army  at  large. 

Further  to  the  west,  isolated  parties  of  several  battalions 
of  the  4th  Division  remained  behind  about  Haucourt  and 
Ligny.  Two  companies  of  the  Dublin  Fusiliers  under 
Major  H.  M.  Shewan,  and  two  of  the  King's  Own  under 
Major  R.  G.  Parker,  holding  fast  to  their  trenches  north 
and  east  of  Haucourt,  were  attacked  soon  after  nightfall, 
but  succeeded  in  beating  off  the  enemy  ;  and  another  party 
of  the  Dublin  Fusiliers,  attracted  by  the  sound  of  the  firing, 
moved  up  in  time  to  shoot  down  a  number  of  the  retreating 
Germans.  Major  Shewan,  and  Major  A.  J.  Poole  of  the 
Warwickshire,  who  had  also  remained  behind  on  the  east 
of  Haucourt  with  three  to  four  hundred  men  of  his  battalion, 
then  consulted  together  as  to  what  should  be  done,  since 
the  enemy  had  apparently  moved  round  both  their  flanks. 
Major  Poole,  being  familiar  with  the  ground,  undertook  to 
lead  the  party  southward  across  country,  and  at  11  p.m. 
the  march  began.  About  the  same  time  Major  Parker  and 
his  party  of  the  King's  Own  started  southward  independ- 
ently, and  succeeded  in  making  good  their  retreat.  Major 
Poole,  steering  for  Selvigny,  struck  the  village  of  Caullery. 
Here  he  was  joined  at  dawn  of  the  27th  by  another  platoon 
of  the  Dublin  Fusiliers  under  Lieutenant  J.  F.  R.  Massy- 
Westropp,  who  had  retired  at  dusk  from  his  trenches  in  the 
road  between  Ligny  and  Haucourt  and,  finding  his  retreat 
threatened  by  a  party  of  Germans  in  a  farm,  had  promptly 
attacked  them,  driven  them  away  and  gone  on  his  way 
unmolested.  These,  together  with  his  own  party  and  some 
of  the  Irish  Fusiliers  who  were  with  them.  Major  Poole  later 
led  on  in  the  track  of  the  4th  Division.  The  Dublin 
Fusiliers,  however,  lost  touch  of  him  in  the  darkness,  and 
drifted  into  Ligny  at  2  a.m.  on  the  27th,  where  they  made 
a  short  halt  to  find  food.  The  men  dropped  down  on  the 
road,  and  instantly  fell  asleep.  After  a  time,  the  march 
was  resumed  southward  upon  Clary,  but  near  the  entrance 
to  the  village  they  were  fired  on  from  the  east  and,  signalling 
to  ascertain  whether  the  aggressors  were  friend  or  foe  (for 
in  the  dim  light  there  was  abundant  room  for  error),  were 
told  to  join  them  as  quickly  as  possible.  The  column 
accordingly  advanced,  and  was  at  once  swept  by  machine- 


RETREAT  FROM  THE  BATTLEFIELD   197 

gun  fire  from  front  and  flank.  The  men  were  deployed,  27  Aug. 
and  then  ordered  to  retire  by  small  groups  mutually  sup-  ^^^'*- 
porting  each  other.  Eventually,  the  Dublin  Fusiliers 
reached  Ligny  with  about  two  hundred  men,  comprising 
soldiers  from  nearly  every  battalion  of  the  3rd,  4th  and  5th 
Divisions — and  even  two  men  of  the  1st  Division — who  had 
drifted  together  upon  the  nucleus  under  Major  She  wan. 
First  they  struck  out  south-east,  but  finding  Germans  on 
every  side,  turned  north-west,  and  after  many  wanderings 
and  more  than  one  sharp  engagement,  eventually  seventy- 
eight  officers  and  men  came  through  the  German  lines  into 
Boulogne.  The  remainder  of  Major  Shewan's  party  seems 
to  have  been  killed  or  taken  to  a  man. 

On  the  whole,  therefore,  it  appears  that  of  these  three 
detachments  which  may  have  numbered  in  all  two  thousand 
men,  about  one  half  escaped  and  rejoined  the  Army  sooner 
or  later.  These  details  may  be  considered  trivial,  but  they 
are  a  testimony  to  the  courage  and  resource  of  the  officers 
and  men  of  the  old  army.  Moreover,  these  detachments 
had  done  far  better  work  than  they  imagined.  Though 
a  mere  handful  scattered  along  some  eight  thousand  yards 
of  front,  they  had  prevented  the  enemy  for  several  hours 
from  advancing  along  the  whole  of  that  line.  The  perpetual 
bombardment  of  vacated  positions,  and  in  particular  that 
of  Audencourt  which  was  repeated  an  hour  after  dark,  is 
plain  evidence  that  the  Germans  were  exceedingly  sus- 
picious of  what  might  be  before  them.  Beyond  question, 
they  had  suffered  very  heavily — as  indeed  was  admitted  by 
German  officers  to  some  of  their  British  prisoners — and 
from  one  cause  and  another  they  were  disinclined  to  take 
risks.  That  the  isolation  of  these  British  detachments  was 
undesigned  in  no  way  detracts  from  the  merit  of  their 
achievement. 1 

The  Retreat  from  the  Battlefield 

While  this  handful  of  men  was  thus  mystifying  the  Sketch  4. 
German  leaders,  the  main  body  of  General  Smith-Dorrien's  ^^-'^^P^^  ^ 

1  Hauptmann  Heubner,  in  his  book  "  Unter  Emniich  vor  Liittich  : 
Unter  Kluck  vor  Paris,"  p.  87,  confirms  the  view  stated  of  tlie  effect  of 
tlie  parties  left  behind.  His  battaUon  of  the  20th  Regiment,  6lh  Division, 
111.  Corps,  came  on  to  tlie  field  late.  He  says,  "  in  front  of  us  there 
"  still  swarmed  a  numt)er  of  scattered  English  troops,  who  were  easily 
"  able  to  hide  in  the  large  woods  of  the  district,  and  again  and  again  forced 
"  us  to  waste  time  in  deployments,  as  we  could  not  tell  what  their  strength 
"  might  be." 


198  THE  RETREAT 

force  was  in  full  retreat.  The  5th  Division  train  had 
started  down  the  Roman  road  very  early  in  the  day,  and 
two  staff  officers  had  accompanied  it  to  keep  it  moving  all 
night ;  for  there  was  fear  of  being  overtaken  by  German 
cavalry.  The  3rd  Division  train  had  followed  it,  cutting 
in  on  the  Roman  road  from  the  north.  Thus  one  serious 
encumbrance  was  removed,  but  the  highway  was,  never- 
theless, choked  for  miles  with  an  interminable  column  of 
transport,  with  the  inevitable  consequence  of  long  stoppages 
and  frequent  short  checks.  The  bulk  of  the  5th  Division 
and  of  the  19th  Brigade  reached  Estrees  (15  miles  from 
Le  Cateau)  between  9  p.m.  and  midnight,  where,  wet,  weary, 
hungry  and  longing  for  sleep,  they  were  directed  on  to  the 
cross  roads,  two  miles  beyond.  There  the  sorting  of  the 
troops  was  taken  in  hand,  a  simple  process  on  paper,  but 
difficult  enough  in  practice  on  a  dark  and  dismal  night  : 
staff  officers  stood  at  the  cross  roads,  shouting  continuously, 
"  Transport  and  mounted  troops  straight  on,  3rd  Division 
"  infantry  to  right,  5th  Division  infantry  to  left."  Then, 
when  the  men  turned  as  directed,  they  were  sorted  by  other 
officers  according  to  brigades  and  battalions.  By  2  a.m. 
on  the  27th  sorting  was  completed,  and  orders  were  issued 
for  a  start  at  4  a.m.,  at  which  time  all  units  of  the  5th 
Division  and  the  detachments  from  other  formations 
marched  off  in  good  order  ;  some  units,  of  course,  were  very 
weak  in  numbers,  as  many  men  had  not  come  in.  The 
transport  and  mounted  troops  were  sorted  out  south  of 
St.  Quentin,  and  there,  well  after  sunrise,  a  rearrangement 
of  the  column  of  the  5th  Division  was  also  made  ;  but  this 
was  a  matter  of  reorganizing  units,  not  individual  soldiers 
as  had  been  the  case  near  Estrees. 

About  midnight,  the  3rd  Division,  having  marched 
by  Elincourt  and  Malincourt,  came  into  Beaurevoir,  north 
of  the  5th  Division.  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  with  the 
Bays  (1st  Cavalry  Brigade)  and  4th  Dragoon  Guards 
(2nd  Cavalry  Brigade),  seeing  the  crowd  on  the  Roman 
road,  retired  east  of  Estrees  to  Brancourt,  Montbrehain 
and  Ramicourt.  The  11th  Hussars  (1st  Cavalry  Brigade) 
came  very  late  into  Estrees.  Half  of  the  9th  Lancers 
(2nd  Cavalry  Brigade)  withdrew  a  little  to  the  south  of 
the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  to  Fresnoy,  the  remainder  having 
marched  with  the  headquarters  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade 
right  across  the  rear  of  the  Army  from  Bohain,  through 
Beaurevoir  to  Marquaix  (11  miles  north-west  of  St.  Quen- 
tin).    Of  the   4th  Division,  the  10th  and  12th  Brigades, 


SMITH-DORRIEN'S  FORCE  199 

with  the  divisional  artillery,  retreated,  2|  miles  west  of  the  26  Aug. 
3rd  Division,  by  Malincourt  and  Villers  Outreaux  to  Le   1914« 
Catelet  and  Vendhuille,  which  were  reached  between  11  p.m. 
and  midnight.     The  11th  Brigade,  finding  its  way  blocked 
by  the  3rd  Division  at  Elincourt,  remained  there  for  the 
night. 

Everywhere,  when  the  order  to  halt  was  given,  the 
men  dropped  down  on  the  road,  and  were  asleep  almost 
before  they  reached  the  ground.  The  only  precautions 
possible  at  the  late  hour  were  to  push  small  piquets  out 
a  few  hundred  yards  on  each  side  of  the  road.  Officers 
of  the  cavalry  and  artillery,  themselves  half  dead  with 
fatigue,  had  to  rouse  their  men  from  a  semi-comatose 
state  to  water  and  feed  the  horses,  then  to  rouse  them 
once  more  to  take  the  nose-bags  off,  taking  care  lest  they 
should  fall  asleep  in  the  very  act.  And  all  this  had  to 
be  done  in  inky  darkness  under  drizzling  rain.  After 
three  or  four  hours'  halt,  the  order  was  given  to  resume 
the  march.  The  officers  roused  the  sergeants,  and  the 
men  were  hunted  out,  hustled  on  to  their  feet,  hardly 
conscious  of  what  they  were  doing,  and  by  some  means 
or  other  formed  into  a  column.  Then  the  column  got 
under  way,  drivers  and  troopers  drowsing  in  their  saddles, 
infantry  staggering  half-asleep  as  they  marched,  every 
man  stiff  with  cold  and  weak  with  hunger,  but,  under 
the  miraculous  power  of  discipline,  plodding  on. 

Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien  on  arrival  at  St.  Quentin 
on  the  evening  of  the  26th  found  that  G.H.Q.  had  left  . 
for  Noyon.  After  sending  off  a  report  of  the  situation 
in  writing,^  he  proceeded  there  himself  by  motor  car,  to 
give  personally  to  the  Commander-in-Chief  an  account  of 
the  action  and  its  successful  breaking  off.  He  arrived 
shortly  after  midnight  and  was  informed  that  the  orders, 
issued  by  G.H.Q.  in  the  afternoon  of  the  26th,  for  the 
retirement  to  the  St.  Quentin  (Crozat)  canal — Somme 
line  (La  Fere — Ham)  still  held  good.  Earlier  in  the 
day,  before  Sir  John  French  had  quitted  St.  Quentin, 
General  Joffre  and  General  Lanrezac  had  visited  him  for 
a  conference.  Sir  John  pointed  out  the  isolated  position 
of  the  British  Army,  as  he  conceived  it,  and  the  French 
Commander-in-Chief  had  confirmed  a  "  directive  "  already 
sent  to  British  G.H.Q.  In  this  he  had  stated  his  intention 
of  withdrawing  to  the  Laon — La  Fere — Ham — Bray  sur 

^  He  had  sent  reports  to  G.H.Q.  at  10.28  a.m.,  12.10  p.m.  and  3.47  p.m., 
in  the  last  reporting  the  beginning  of  tlie  retirement. 


200  THE  RETREAT 

Somme  position,  and  subsequently  retaking  the  offensive, 
as  soon  as  a  new  Army,  the  Sixth,  could  be  formed  on  the 
left  of  the  British.  His  main  interest  was  that,  in  spite  of 
the  heavy  losses  they  had  suffered,  the  British  should 
not  fall  out  of  the  line.  The  Field-Marshal  agreed  to 
make  his  retirement  as  deliberate  as  possible. 

Thus  posted  in  the  general  situation.  General  Smith- 
Dorrien  returned  to  his  headquarters  at  St.  Quentin. 
Under  his  instructions,  the  5th  Division  and  the  19th 
Brigade  were  intercepted  at  Bellcnglise  and  turned  south- 
eastward upon  St.  Quentin,  where  supplies  awaited  them, 
with  directions  to  march  thence  upon  Ollezy  (4  miles  east 
of  Ham).  The  3rd  Division  was  to  continue  its  march  from 
Bellicourt  and  Hargicourt  upon  Vermand,  heading  for 
Ham.  Unfortunately  its  supply  column  had  missed  it 
and  it  was  without  rations  from  the  25th  until  the  after- 
noon of  the  27th.  The  4th  Division  was  to  proceed  via 
Roisel,  Hancourt,  Monchy  Lagache  to  Voyennes  (4  miles 
west  of  Ham),  picking  up  supphes  en  route. 


THE  I.  CORPS  ON  THE  26tH  AUGUST 

It  is  now  time  to  return  to  the  I.  Corps  and  see  what  it 
was  doing  on  the  morning  of  the  26th  whilst  the  II.  Corps 
was  engaged  at  the  Battle  of  Le  Cateau. 

Whatever  loss  the  Germans  might  have  suffered  in  their 
repulse  by  the  Guards  at  Landrecies,  they  had  succeeded  in 
disturbing  the  repose  of  the  I.  Corps  and  in  keeping  it 
on  the  alert  all  night  in  expectation  of  an  attack.  Its 
strategic  position,  besides,  was  far  from  satisfactory ; 
for  the  enemy  appeared  to  be  about  to  break  in  between 
it  and  the  II.  Corps,  and  to  be  threatening  the  flank  of 
its  retreat  from  the  west.  Soon  after  midnight,  from  his 
headquarters  at  Le  Grand  Fayt,  five  miles  from  Landrecies, 
Sir  Douglas  Haig  took  measures  to  meet  the  situa- 
tion, and  to  occupy  a  position  facing  north  and  north- 
west, preparatory  to  retiring  southward.  The  trains,  after 
dumping  supplies,  were  ordered  to  Etreux,  carrying  the 
men's  packs  in  the  empty  lorries.  The  1st  Division  was 
to  take  position  near  Favril,  a  mile  and  a  half  S.S.E.  of 
Landrecies,  to  cover  the  withdrawal  of  the  2nd  Division 
on  its  right.  The  2nd  Division  was  divided,  part  retiring 
to  the  right  and  part  to  the  left  rear  of  the  1st  Division,  as 
follows  : — 


THE  I.  CORPS  ON  THE  26th  AUGUST        201 

The  5th  and  6th  Brigades  to  close  in  from  Noyelles  and  26  Aug. 

Maroilles  upon  Le  Grand  Fayt ;  1914. 

The  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  to  retire  as  soon  as  possible  from 

Landrecies  on  La  Groise,  7  miles  to  the  south  ; 
The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  to  cover  the  western  flank  of  the 

corps  between  Ors  and  Catillon  on  the  Sambre  canal. 

Sir  John  French  appears  to  have  become  uneasy  about 
the  prospect  of  the  I.  Corps  retiring  due  south  ;  for  about 
6  A.M.,  whilst  General  Haig  was  still  at  Le  Grand  Fayt,  a 
staff  officer  from  G.H.Q.  brought  him  instructions  giving 
him  the  alternatives  of  retiring  south-westward  on  St. 
Quentin,  that  is  tow^ards  the  11.  Corps,  or  in  a  south- 
easterly direction  to  seek  shelter  with  the  French,^  in 
which  case  his  troops  would  have  to  rejoin  the  Expedition- 
ary Force  by  train.  The  G.O.C.  I.  Corps  considered  it 
best  to  allow  the  movements  already  ordered  to  proceed, 
as  he  could  do  no  more  than  he  had  done  to  comply  with 
the  spirit  of  the  instructions.  He  confirmed  the  fact  that 
he  was  retiring  southward  by  a  message  at  10  a.m.  Unfor- 
tunately, by  this  decision  direct  touch  with  the  II.  Corps 
was  broken,  and  not  regained  until  the  1st  September. ^ 

The  French  Reserve  divisions  on  the  right  of  the  I. 
Corps  were  warned  of  the  retirement,  and  a  brigade,  sent  by 
General  Valabregue  to  gain  touch  with  the  right  of  the 
2nd  Division,  occupied  first  the  line  Marbaix — Maroilles, 

1  He  informed  General  Lanrezac  of  this  possibility.     See  page  136. 

*  There  was  no  direct  connection  or  communication  between  the  I. 
and  II.  Corps  during  the  fighting  on  the  26th  ;  they  were  both,  however, 
in  signal  communication  with  G.H.Q.  No  information  was  sent  by  G.H.Q. 
to  either  corps  as  regards  the  situation  of  the  other  after  the  message  in 
the  early  morning  to  the  II.  Corps  informing  General  Smith-Dorrien  that 
the  I.  Corps  had  asked  for  assistance,  and  the  subsequent  message  telling 
him  that  the  news  from  the  I.  Corps  was  reassuring.  At  1  p.m.  G.H.Q. 
telegraphed  to  both  corps  and  the  Cavalry  Division,  "  In  case  of  retreat 
"  direct  your  movement  on  St.  Quentin  and  then  Noyon."  There  is  then 
a  pause  in  the  liaison.  At  8.30  p.m.  General  Haig  despatched  an  enquiry 
to  G.H.Q.,  "  No  news  of  II.  Corps  except  sound  of  guns  from  direction  of 
"  Le  Cateau  and  Beaumont.  Can  I.  Corps  be  of  any  assistance."  To  this 
enquiry  no  answer  was  vouchsafed.  At  this  hour  G.H.Q.  seems  to  have 
given  up  the  II.  Corps  as  lost  ;  for  from  Noyon  at  8.15  p.m.  Colonel  Huguet 
telegraphed  in  cipher  to  G.Q.G.  : 

"  Bataille  perdue  par  armee  anglaise  qui  parait  avoir  perdu  cohesion. 
"  Elle  demandera,  pour  etre  reconstituee,  d'etre  serieusement  protegee. 
"  Quartier  general  ce  soir  Noyon.  Plus  amples  details  suivront."  [F.O.A., 
i.  (ii.),  Annexe  (i.)  p.  429.] 

Receiving  no  reply  from  G.H.Q.,  at  11  p.m.  General  Haig  sent  a  message 

(probably  drafted  earlier)  to  the  II.  Corps,  via  G.H.Q. :  "  Please  let  me  know 

"  your  situation  and  news.     We  are  well  able  to  co-operate  with  you  to-day, 

"  we  could  hear  the  sound  of  your  battle,  but  could  get  no  information  as 

'  to  its  progress,  and  could  form  no  idea  of  how  we  could  assist  you." 


202  THE  RETREAT  OF  I.  CORPS 

and  subsequently  the  high  ground  between  Le  Grand  Fayt 
and  Maroilles. 

As  matters  turned  out,  the  Germans  made  no  attempt 
to  renew  their  attacks.^  The  3rd  Brigade  entrenched  at 
Favril,  and  the  4th  had  passed  it,  totally  unmolested,  by 
4.15  A.M.  The  3rd  Brigade  was  slightly  engaged  later  in 
the  day,  but  would  probably  have  been  left  in  absolute 
peace  had  not  a  section  of  British  guns,  by  firing  at  a  distant 
column  of  German  infantry  marching  west,^  provoked  re- 
taliation and  a  sharp  attack  by  some  dismounted  cavalry, 
which  resulted  in  a  few  casualties  to  the  1 /Gloucestershire. 
At  noon  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade  relieved  the  6th  Brigade 
near  Le  Grand  Fayt,  enabling  the  latter  to  strike  south- 
ward through  fitreux,  where  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  had 
secured  the  bridge  leading  across  the  Sambre  to  Venerolles. 
The  retirement  of  the  1st  Division  then  began  ;  between 
1  P.M.  and  2  p.m.  the  1st  (Guards)  and  2nd  Brigades  left 
Favril  for  Fesmy  and  Oisy,  both  to  the  north  of  fitreux. 
Not  one  of  these  brigades  reached  its  destination  before 
10  P.M.,  and  the  men  were  greatly  fatigued.  The  3rd 
Brigade  remained  at  Favril  till  5  p.m.,  and  then  marched 
straight  to  Oisy. 

The  progress  of  the  5th  Brigade  from  Noyelles  to  Le 
Grand  Fayt  was  arrested  for  several  hours  by  the  move- 
ment across  its  line  of  march  south-westwards  on  Guise  of 
General  Valabregue's  divisions.  About  half  a  mile  to  the 
south-west  of  Marbaix  towards  1  p.m.  the  transport  of  the 
main  body  was  blocked  ;  the  2/Connaught  Rangers,  which 
formed  the  rear  guard,  came  perforce  to  a  halt.  One  com- 
pany remained  in  rear  of  the  transport,  and  the  rest  of  the 
battalion  halted  on  the  road  from  Maroilles  to  Marbaix,  a 
mile  south  of  Taisnieres.  At  this  point  French  infantry 
w^as  entrenching  a  position,  whilst  French  cavalry  patrols 
guarded  the  roads  in  all  directions.  From  these  it  was 
understood  that  there  was  no  enemy  in  the  vicinity.  After 
taking  due  precaution,  therefore,  to  watch  the  approaches, 
the  commanding  officer,  Lieut. -Colonel  A.  W.  Abercrombie, 
allowed  the  Connaught  Rangers  to  rest,  sending  word  to 

^  The  Germans  expected  to  be  attacked  across  the  Sambre,  and  as 
their  7th,  5ih  and  6th  Divisions  were  marching  to  the  field  of  Le  Cateau, 
they  left  the  bridges  guarded.  Thus  a  battalion  of  the  165th  Regiment 
was  for  a  time  opposite  Landrecies,  being  relieved  by  one  of  the  48th 
Eegiment  and  one  of  the  35th  Regiment  ;  the  12th  Brigade  {24th  and  64th 
Regiments)  arranged  to  guard  the  other  bridges  from  Berlaimont  upwards. 

2  Part  of  the  III.  Corps  moving  from  Landrecies  on  Le  Cateau.  See 
"Regt.  No.  48,"  pp.  10,  17. 


LE  GRAND  FAYT  203 

Br. -General  Halving  that  he  would  move  on  to  Le  Grand  26  Aug. 
Fayt  at  3  p.m.  unless  otherwise  ordered.  At  3.15  p.m.  1914. 
French  patrols  came  in  with  the  news  that  some  two 
hundred  Germans,  with  a  machine  gun,  were  close  at  hand. 
Colonel  Abercrombie  at  once  set  out  with  two  platoons 
towards  Marbaix,  and,  after  advancing  some  six  hundred 
yards,  was  met  by  fire  from  artillery  and  a  machine  gun. 
Calling  up  the  rest  of  the  battalion,  he  deployed  it  south 
of  the  road.  The  companies  then  advanced  over  difficult 
country,  of  high  hedges  and  small  enclosures,  under  rifle 
fire,  which  however  ceased  after  about  an  hour.  A  mes- 
senger sent  to  brigade  headquarters  to  report  the  situation 
was  unable  to  find  them  ;  and  between  5  and  6  p.m.  the 
company  commanders,  being  out  of  touch  with  Colonel 
Abercrombie,  began  to  withdraw  independently  through 
Le  Grand  Fayt  south-westwards  upon  Barzy  with  such  men 
as  they  could  collect.  At  6  p.m.  Colonel  Abercrombie 
followed  with  about  a  hundred  men,  being  assured  by  an 
inhabitant  that  no  enemy  was  in  Le  Grand  Fayt  ;  but, 
while  passing  through  the  village,  his  detachment  was  fired 
upon  by  Germans  concealed  in  the  houses,  and  compara- 
tively few  escaped.  Other  parties  were  also  cut  off,  and 
altogether  nearly  three  hundred  officers  and  men  of  the 
Connaught  Rangers  were  missing.^ 

The  5th  Brigade  finally  went  into  billets  at  Barzy,  5 
miles  north-east  of  the  bulk  of  the  2nd  Division.  The  5th 
Cavalry  Brigade,  which  was  little  molested  in  its  duty  of 
covering  the  left  flank  except  by  occasional  shells,  fell  back 
with  trifling  loss  eight  miles  further  to  Hannapes,  on  the 
Oise,  about  two  miles  south-west  of  Jfitreux,  not  reaching  its 
billets  until  far  into  the  night. 

The  position  of  the  I.  Corps  on  the  night  of  the  26th 
was  in  and  around  Etreux  ;   in  detail  as  follows  : — 

1st  Division  :  Fesmy,  Petit  Cambresis,  Oisy. 
2nd  Division  :  £treux,  Venerolles. 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  :  Hannapes. 
Corps  H.Q.  :  1|  miles  east  of  Hannapes. 

^  Vogel  gives  a  full  account  of  this  fight.  The  attackers  were  the  1st 
Guard  Cavalry  Brigade  and  the  Gardc-SchiUzenbataillon.  He  states  that 
French  troops  also  took  part,  and  about  100  of  them  were  taken  prisoners, 
as  well  as  93  English.  According  to  him,  it  was  the  German  cavalry 
which  was  surprised,  and  the  Divisional  Staff,  which  was  close  up  to  the 
vanguard,  was  under  fire.  He  mentions  that  the  German  cavalry  fought  on 
foot  on  this  day  for  the  first  time  in  the  war.  His  division  billeted  at  Marbaix. 

The  German  official  list  of  battles  shows  that  the  2nd  Guard  Reserve 
Division  of  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  was  also  engaged  at  Marbaix  on  the  26th 
August. 


204  LE  CATEAU 

The  II.  Corps  and  4th  Division  and  remaining  cavalry 
brigades  were  18  miles  to  the  west,  in  retreat  south-west- 
ward to  the  Oise,  on  the  front  of  St.  Quentin — Le  Catelet. 

The  French  53rd  and  69th  Reserve  Divisions  were  to 
the  south-east  of  the  I.  Corps  at  Iron  and  Lavaqueresse. 


NOTE  I 
German  Accounts  of  Le  Cateau 

iketch  7.  Very  little  has  been  published  in  Germany  about  Le  Cateau ; 
riaps  3,  9,  there  is  no  official  monograph  on  the  battle,  as  there  is  on  Mons 
'^  11'  and  Ypres.     The  fighting  on  the  26th  August  was  at  first  almost 

concealed  by  being  included  in  the  so-called  "  Battle  of  St.  Quentin." 
There  is  no  doubt  that  the  enemy  not  only  suffered  heavy  casualties 
and  wasted  a  whole  day  in  time,  but,  owing  to  misconception  of  the 
situation  and  indifferent  staff  work,  lost  a  great  opportunity  of 
enveloping  three  British  divisions.  It  is  for  these  reasons  perhaps 
that  he  has  said  little  about  it. 

In  the  official  list  of  battles  issued  at  the  end  of  1919,  it  is  called 
"  the  Battle  of  Solesmes— Le  Cateau  (25th-27th  August  1914),"  and 
the  troops  present  are  given  as  III.  Corps  {5th  and  6th  Divisions), 
IV.  Corps  {7th  and  8th  Divisions),  IV.  Reserve  Corps  {7th  Reserve 
and  22nd  Reserve  Divisions)  and  //.  Cavalry  Corps  {2nd,  4th  and  9th 
Cavalry  Divisions),  whilst  the  3rd  Division  of  the  II.  Corps  is  shown 
as  engaged  on  the  26th  at  "  Cambrai." 

Tlie  official  bulletin,  issued  by  the  Supreme  Command  on  the 
28th  August,  runs  as  follows  : 

"  Defeat  of  the  English  at  St.  Quentin.  The  English  Army,i  to 
"  which  three  French  Territorial  divisions  ^  had  attached  themselves, 
"  has  been  completely  defeated  north  of  St.  Quentin,  and  is  in  full 
"  retreat  through  St.  Quentin. ^  Several  thousand  prisoners,  seven 
"  field  batteries  and  a  heavy  battery  fell  into  our  hands."  * 

The  troops  were  told  that  12,000  prisoners  had  been  taken.^ 

As  already  noticed,^  Kluck's  operation  orders  for  the  26th, 
issued  at  Haussy,  three  miles  north  of  Solesmes,  at  10.50  p.m.  on 
the  25th,  merely  gave  instructions  for  a  long  march  in  pursuit,  mainly 
in  a  direction  in  which  there  was  not  much  to  pursue.  His  summary 
of  them  runs  : — 

"  The  First  Army,  from  parts  of  which  severe  marches  are 
"  demanded,  will  continue  the  pursuit  of  the  beaten  enemy. 

"  The  //.  Corps  [commencing  on  the  west]  will  march  Naa  Cambrai 
"  on  Bapaume,  west  of  the  road  Valenciennes — Vendegies — Villers 

1  Only  three  out  of  five  divisions  were  present  at  Le  Cateau. 

2  Only  one  Territorial  division — the  84.th — was  present.  The  61st 
and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions  were  west  of  Cambrai,  but  not  engaged 
(see  page  210). 

3  Only  the  5th  Division,  part  of  the  cavalry,  and  some  stragglers  came 
through  St.  Quentin. 

*  See  page  191,  f.n.  1,  for  the  correct  figures. 
B  Bloem,  p.  183. 

*  See  page  169. 


THE  GERMAN  ACCOUNTS  205 

"  en  Cauchies — Cattenieres,  till  it  is  abreast  of  Graincourt  [5  miles  26  Aug. 
"  S.W.  of  CambraiJ.  1914- 

"  The  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  starting  early,  via  Vendegies — Villers 
"  en  Cauchies  to  Cattenieres. 

"  The  IV.  Corps  from  Solesmes  and  Landrecies,  by  two  routes  : 
"  via  Caudry,  and  via  IMontay — Caullery — Walincourt,  to  Vendhuille ; 
"  the  road  Landrecies — Le  Cateau  is  allotted  to  the  ///.  Corps. 

"  The  ///.  Corps  by  the  Landrecies — Le  Cateau  road  to  Maretz. 

"  Orders  will  be  issued  at  Solesmes  at  11  a.m. 

"  The  IX.  Corps  will  cover  the  flank  march  of  the  Army  from 
"  the  west  and  south-west  fronts  of  Maubeuge,  and  will  send  any 
"  troops  not  required  to  follow  the  ///.  Corps  via  Berlaimont — 
"  Maroilles  to  Landrecies." 

Although  General  von  Kluck  before  he  wrote  had  read  Sir  John 
French's  despatch,  from  which  he  quotes  at  length,  he  was  evidently 
still  labouring  under  considerable  misapprehension  as  to  the  dis- 
positions of  the  B.E.F.  and  its  movements.  It  is  best  to  quote  his 
narrative  : — 

"  In  the  early  morning  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps,  moving  via 
"  Wambaix — Beauvois — Quievy,  attacked  the  enemy,  who  was 
"  withdrawing  in  a  westerly  (sic)  direction,  drove  him  partly  back 
"  towards  the  south,  and  held  him  fast  until  the  heads  of  the  army 
"  corps  came  up."  This  account  hardly  corresponds  with  the  long 
pause  in  the  fighting  and  Captain  Wirth's  story  of  finding  regiments 
of  the  cavalry  corps  cowering  behind  the  shelter  of  houses.^ 

"  The  IV.  Corps  about  8  a.m.  attacked  strong  British  forces  at 
"  Caudry — Troisvilles — Reumont,  and  encountered  stout  resistance 
"  from  the  enemy,  who  was  well-established  in  his  position.  The 
"  IV.  Reserve  Corps  was  to  envelop  the  northern  [sic]  and  the  ///. 
"  Corps  the  southern  [sic]  flank  of  the  position.  The  former,  how- 
"  ever,  struck  against  the  French  at  Cattenieres  ;  the  ///.  Corps, 
"  moving  on  Maretz,  did  not  get  further  than  Honnechy  on  the 
"  26th.  By  evening  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  succeeded  in  driving  its 
"  opponents  back  in  a  southerly  direction  whilst  the  IV.  Corps 
"  overthrew  the  right  wing  of  the  British.  The  //.  Corps  defeated 
"  stronger  French  forces  at  Cambrai."  ^ 

Apparently  Kluck  really  thought  that  the  B.E.F.  was  facing  east, 
and  that  if  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  drove  it  southwards,  i.e.,  off  its 
line  of  retreat  to  Calais — Boulogne,  it  would  endeavour  to  get  away 
to  the  west.  This  is  confirmed  by  the  fact  tliat  when  the  IV.  Reserve 
Corps  relieved  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps,  the  latter  moved  west  of 
Cambrai,  and  on  the  27th  marched  down  the  Cambrai — Bapaume 
road  to  intercept  any  movement  of  the  B.E.F.  westwards.  The  //. 
Corps  also  pushed  on  west-south-west  of  Cambrai  on  the  26th,  and 
its  4th  Division  reached  Hermies,  half-way  to  Bapaume,  where  it 
blocked  any  escape  to  the  west. 

Kluck's  narrative  of  the  battle  ends  with  a  statement,  which 
shows  that  he  thought  the  British  I.  Corps  and  also  the  6th  Division, 
still  in  England,  were  present.  "  The  whole  British  Expeditionary 
"  Corps,  six  divisions,  a  cavalry  division  and  several  French  Territorial 
"  divisions  opposed  the  First  Army.  ...  If  the  English  stand  on  the 
"  27th,  the  double  envelopment  may  yet  bring  a  great  success." 

1  See  page  184,  f.n.  1. 

2  This  is  hardly  the  case.  See  the  action  of  the  French  84th  Territorial 
Division  at  Cambrai,  page  210. 


206  LE  CATEAU 

He  reported  to  the  Supreme  Command  that  he  had  won  a  victory, 
and  not  over  three  divisions  but  nine,  and  thereby,  it  is  claimed  by 
German  writers,  helped  to  mislead  Moltke  as  to  the  real  situation. ^ 

Relying  on  the  retreat  of  the  British  westward  being  intercepted 
by  jMarwitz's  cavalry  and  the  //.  Corps,  which  was  to  march  at 
1  A.M.,  both  directed  on  Combles  (20  miles  south-west  of  Cambrai), 
"  so  as  to  prevent  the  British  escaping  westwards,"  ^  he  gave  the 
remainder  of  his  force  a  night's  rest.  His  operation  orders,  issued  at 
8.13  P.M.,  directed  the  IV.  Reserve,  IV.  and  ///.  Corps  "  to  cross 
"  the  line  roughly  Esnes — Caudry — Reumont  at  4  a.m."  This  was 
the  British  battle  front  of  the  previous  evening,  and  as  the  action 
was  broken  off  by  Sir  H.  Smith-Dorrien  at  3.30  p.m.  and  all  his  three 
divisions  were  on  the  move  by  5  p.m.,  they  had  nearly  twelve  hours' 
start  of  the  enemy.  Thus  it  was,  the  German  cavalry  having  been 
given  a  wrong  direction,  that  there  was  no  pursuit. 

The  German  Official  Account '  devotes  only  five  and  a  half  pages 
to  the  battle.  According  to  it,  the  II.  Cavalry  Corps  started  from 
the  neighbourhood  of  Avesnes  (6  miles  north-west  of  Solesmes)  at 
8.30  A.M.  with  its  three  divisions  abreast,  and  "  after  a  short  march 
"  ran  into  strong  British  forces  of  all  arms  in  the  villages  north  of 
"  the  Warnelle.  Around  these  villages  arose  a  stubborn  conflict 
"  which  the  cavalry  corps  had  to  maintain  without  assistance  for 
"  many  hours."  The  attack  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division,  the  western- 
most, was  brought  to  a  stop  by  artillery  fire  from  the  Esnes  direction  ; 
only  when  the  British  retired  could  the  Jdger  battalions  of  the 
di\asion  take  possession  of  the  British  position.  From  5  a.m.  on- 
wards the  9th  Cavalry  Division  attacked  Beauvois,  and  the  4th, 
Bethencourt,  and  towards  noon  (when  the  11th  Brigade  retired)  the 
Jdger  battalion  of  the  9th  "  stormed  the  position  south  of  Fontaine 
"  au  Pire  and  eastwards,"  the  4th  Cavalry  Division  being  still  held 
up  at  Bethencourt. 

The  First  Army  headquarters  received  the  first  news  of  these 
encounters  at  9  a.m.  by  wireless.  The  message  ran  as  follows  : 
"  //.  Cavalry  Corps  in  very  serious  engagement  with  enemy  at 
"  Solesmes  and  Le  Cateau,  who  in  places  is  advancing  to  attack. 
"  Support  requested."  From  this  message  it  was  supposed  that 
the  cavalry  had  caught  up  the  British  and  forced  them  to  battle. 
"  This  picture  of  the  situation  was  emphasized  by  a  message  which 
"  arrived  soon  after  from  the  2nd  Cavalry  Division,  saying  that  it 
"  had  attacked  strong  British  columns  marching  westwards." 
General  von  Kluck  did  not  consider  any  further  orders  need  be 
issued,  as  the  double  envelopment  of  the  British  seemed  to  be  going 
according  to  plan  ;  he  was  confirmed  in  his  view  by  a  further  message 
from  the  II.  Cavalry  Corps  which  said  that  the  //.  (really  the  IV.) 
Corps  had  attacked  at  8.10  a.m.  from  the  direction  of  Solesmes. 

In  the  IV.  Corps  (General  Sixt  von  Armin),  the  8th  Division 
had  advanced  early  through  Solesmes,  without  meeting  resistance, 
the  main  body  marching  towards  Viesly  and  the  72nd  Regiment 
towards  Le  Cateau.     On  reports  that  the  enemy  was  standing  on 

1  Tappen,  p.  21.  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  82.  The  latter  writer,  Kluck's 
Chief  of  the  Staff,  comments  (pp.  81-2),  now  that  the  truth  is  known  : 
"  Where  was  [British]  G.H.Q.that  day?  One  corps  marches  off, the  other 
"  remains  contrary  to  orders  and  accepts  an  unequal  battle." 

*  Poseck,  p.  64.    The  hour  at  which  the  cavalry  started  is  not  stated. 

»  i.  pp.  522-7. 


THE  GERMAN  ACCOUNTS  207 

the  Cambrai — Le  Cateau  main  road,  the  division  deployed  against  26  Aug. 
Bethencourt  and  Beaumont.  As  the  British  evacuated  both  these  1914. 
places  after  a  short  resistance,  by  advanced  troops,  the  8th  Division 
took  possession  of  them  about  11  a.m.  Meantime  the  72nd  Regiment 
had  pushed  tlirough  Le  Cateau  and  become  engaged  with  the  British 
on  the  heights  beyond.  The  situation  of  this  isolated  regiment 
became  somewhat  alarming,  especially  when  it  became  known  that 
troops  were  advancing  on  Le  Cateau  from  the  north-east.  "  The 
"  new  enemy,  however,  turned  out  to  be  German  troops."  ^  The 
7th  Division,  which  was  marching  on  Le  Cateau  via  Montay  and 
had  deployed  in  front  of  Forest  about  8  a.m.,  now  arrived,  and  a 
large  portion  of  the  division  (one  brigade)  was  sent  to  envelop  the 
British  right  flank  ;  but,  after  carrying  the  forward  position  south- 
west of  Montay  (sic),  it  could  make  no  progress  against  the  main 
position. 

"■  The  quick  eye  of  General  Sixt  von  Armin  very  soon  detected 
"  that  he  had  to  do  with  more  than  a  mere  pursuit  action.  By  a 
"  corps  order,  issued  at  11.15  a.m.,  he  organized  the  hitherto  dis- 
"  jointed  attack  of  his  divisions  into  a  combined  operation."  He 
ordered  the  8th  Division  to  attack  west  of  the  line  Neuvilly^ — Trois- 
villes,  and  the  7th  Division  to  attack  with  the  13th  Brigade  and  the 
72nd  Regiment  between  this  line  and  the  line  Le  Cateau — Reumont, 
whilst  the  14th  Brigade  enveloped  the  enemy  right  via  Le  Cateau 
railway  station. 

The  commander  of  the  8th  Division  at  1  p.m.,  after  a  long  artillery 
preparation,  ordered  the  attack  against  Caudry  and  Audencourt, 
and  it  is  claimed  that  Caudry  was  taken  and  held,^  but  that  Auden- 
court, though  in  flames,  could  not  be  captured. 

The  battle  "  went  more  favourably  "  for  the  7th  Division,  on 
whose  front  the  superiority  of  the  German  artillery  made  itself  felt. 
"  The  British  right  wing  was  beaten,"  the  reinforcements  put  in 
"  only  added  to  the  confusion  "  and  the  envelopment  also  began  to 
become  effective. 

The  presence  of  the  III.  Corps  (General  von  Lochow)  from  the 
east  now  began  to  make  itself  felt.  Parts  of  the  5th  Division  marching 
from  Pommereuil  came  up  gradually  level  with  the  7th  Division,  the 
remainder  of  the  5th  Division  turning  southward  on  Bazuel. 

The  histories  of  the  four  infantry  regiments  of  the  5th  Division 
do  not  quite  bear  out  this  statement  of  the  official  historian.  The 
8th  Leib  Grenadiers  (pp.  61-2),  which  was  leading,  says  the  division 
inarched  from  Landrecies  via  Pommereuil.  "  The  participation  of 
"  the  regiment  was  limited  to  the  opening  out  of  //.  Battalion  under 
"  enemy  artillery  fire  and  the  deployment  of  the  machine-gun  com- 
"  pany  against  an  enemy  battery.  .  .  .  The  disappearance  of  this 
"  battery  brought  an  end  to  the  company  waging  war  on  its  own 
"  account "  ;  towards  midnight  the  regiment  reached  Honnechy 
and  Maurois  and  billeted  there.  The  52nd  Regiment  followed  the 
8th  from  Locquignol  and  bivouacked  without  incident  at  St.  Benin  ; 
the  48th  got  no  further  than  Bazuel ;  the  12th  Grenadiers  marched 
at  the  tail,  and  its  history  does  not  mention  where  it  halted.  The 
total  distance  covered  by  the  head  of  the  division  was  thus  only 

^  Lohrisch,  pp.  102-3,  states  that  troops  of  the  two  sister  divisions,  7th 
and  8ih,  fired  on  each  other  at  this  time. 

^  It  has  Ijcen  pointed  out  (page  181)  that  the  8ih  Division  does  not 
agree  about  this. 


208 


LE  CATEAU 


eleven  miles  between  dawn  and  midnight,  for  which  there  is  no 
explanation 

To  return  to  the  main  narrative.  Before  the  great  envelopment 
movement  could  take  effect,  "  the  British  resistance  had  broken.  .  .  . 
"  When  the  7th  Division  assaulted  at  2.30  p.m.  only  a  few  machine 
"  guns  were  firing.  .  .  .  The  retreat  of  the  beaten  right  wing  was 
"  carried  out  so  quickly  that  the  order  for  pursuit  issued  by  General 
"  Sixt  von  Armin  at  1.15  p.m.  could  not  take  effect.  Precious  time 
"  was  lost  in  reorganizing  on  the  Le  Cateau — Honnechy  road,  the  units 
"  having  become  mixed  up.  In  the  evening  [thus  nothing  was  done 
"  for  several  hours]  the  7th  Division  was  drawn  westwards  to  make 
"  room  for  the  ///.  Corps,  the  head  of  whose  5th  Division  reached 
"  Honnechy,  whilst  that  of  the  6th  came  up  to  Forest."  Information 
kindly  supplied  by  the  Reichsarchiv  is  to  the  effect  that  the  6th 
Division  on  the  night  of  the  25th/26th  was  in  the  Forest  of  Mormal, 
with  its  head  outside  the  eastern  exit  near  Aulnoye  and  its  tail  on 
the  Roman  road.  Its  orders  were  to  march  via  Landrecies  and  Le 
Cateau  on  Maretz.  At  some  time  on  the  26th  these  were  counter- 
manded ;  for  the  leading  brigade  was  marched  back  north-westwards 
through  the  Forest  of  Mormal,  whilst  the  second  brigade,  starting 
late,  marched  straight  on  down  the  Roman  road,  and  the  whole 
division,  without  going  into  action,  went  into  billets  in  the  area 
jTorest— Bousies — Engelfontaine — Vendegies,  which  had  been  occu- 
pied by  the  7th  Division  on  the  previous  night.  The  long  marches 
of  the  6th  Division  therefore  brought  it  little  nearer  the  battle. 

Of  the  infantry  regiments  of  the  6th  Division,  the  history  of  the 
24th,  the  leading  one,  says  it  started  at  3  a.m.,  "  was  drawn  hither 
"  and  thither,  and  with  few  pauses  it  marched  until  late  evening, 
"  dropping  a  battalion  to  take  and  guard  Berlaimont  bridge."  The 
64th  Regiment  had  lain  down  to  rest  on  the  road  at  12.30  a.m., 
started  again  at  3  a.m.  eastward,  and  at  5  a.m.  dropped  two  com- 
panies to  guard  the  Sambre  bridges  in  the  sector  Landrecies — Leval. 
About  8  A.M.  it  turned  back  through  the  forest,  now  ahead  of  the 
24th  Regiment,  and  proceeded  via  Engelfontaine  on  Robersart,  but 
at  7.15  P.M.  went  into  bivouac  "  dead  tired  "  round  Engelfontaine. 
The  35th  Fusiliers,  "  at  the  tail  of  the  division,"  starting  at  9.30  a.m., 
following  the  other  regiment  of  the  brigade,  the  20th,  marched 
straight  down  the  Roman  road  to  Engelfontaine,  where  it  was  told 
to  send  a  battaUon,  with  a  battery,  to  Landrecies.  The  brigade 
then  took  up  a  position  of  readiness  to  support  the  IV.  Corps  near 
Bousies,  one  battalion  of  the  35th  Fusiliers  being  sent  forward  as 
artillery  escort,  but  "  the  brigade  did  not  come  into  action,  as  the 
"  enemy  had  meantime  disappeared." 

The  German  Official  Account  continues  that  in  the  late  afternoon 
the  18th  Division  of  the  IX.  Corps  (Lieut. -General  von  Quast)  reached 
Landrecies,  the  17th  remaining  before  Maubeuge. 

In  the  centre  of  the  battlefield,  after  the  8th  Division  had  made 
towards  evening  "  an  unsuccessful  thrust  "  against  Audencourt,  the 
G.O.C.,  at  5.30  p.m.,  ordered  it  to  stand  fast  and  await  the  effect  of 
the  enveloping  attack  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  next  day. 

The  regimental  histories  of  the  8th  Division  give  the  following 
accounts.  The  three  infantry  regiments  (the  fourth,  the  72nd,  the  ad- 
vanced guard,  was  in  Le  Cateau)  were  deployed  off  the  Solesmes — Le 
Cateau  road  for  the  attack  against  the  3rd  Di\ision.  The  36th  Fusiliers 
advanced  from  Neuvilly  against  "  Inchy  and  east  of  that  village," 


THE  GERMAN  ACCOUNTS  209 

the  93rd  from  Viesly  against  Beaumont,  and  the  153rd  from  Viesly  26  Aug, 
against  Bethencourt.  The  3Gth  Fusiliers  did  not  move  to  the  attack  1914. 
until  "  about  12  noon,"  and  then  "  without  sufficient  artillery 
"  preparation."  The  objective  was  the  road  Le  Cateau — Beaumont, 
but  the  regiment  made  no  progress  at  first.  "  When  at  4.30  p.m. 
"  the  enemy  evacuated  his  position,  the  regiment  gained  its  objective 
"  and  entered  on  pursuit  towards  Troisvilles  "  ;  there  it  assembled 
and  then  returned  to  Audencourt  to  billet.  It  had  just  400  casualties 
(51  dead).  ("  Fus.  Regt.  No.  36,"  pp.  9-11.)  The  93rd  Regiment 
(pp.  41-7  of  its  history)  was  ordered  at  9.15  a.m.  to  attack  Beaumont. 
It  got  into  the  village  after  "  considerable  losses,"  about  11  a.m.  ; 
but  "•  a  further  advance  beyond  the  edge  of  the  village  proved  im- 
"  possible  " — all  attempts  to  do  so  broke  down  under  artillery  and 
rifle  fire.  The  British  remained  in  position  until  night,  it  is  stated, 
and  then  slipped  away  unseen.  "  The  victory  was  dearly  bought," 
there  being  433  casualties  (118  dead).  The  153rd  Regiment  (pp.  54-6) 
came  under  artillery  fire  directly  it  left  Viesly  shortly  before  9  a.m., 
in  attack  formation.  By  10  a.m.  British  posts  in  Bethencourt  had 
been  driven  out,  and  the  battalions  then  waited  whilst  the  5-9-inch 
howitzers  of  114th  Field  Artillery  Regiment  fired  on  Caudry  and  farms 
near.  At  noon  a  formal  attack  on  Caudry  was  ordered  for  "  early 
"  in  the  afternoon."  Little  progress  was  made  and  heavy  losses  were 
incurred,  and  only  at  the  "  beginning  of  darkness  "  did  the  front 
line  reach  assaulting  distance.  Then,  "  in  view  of  the  strength  of 
"  the  enemy  position,"  the  troops  were  ordered  to  hold  on  till  next 
day,  when  the  enveloping  attack  of  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  would 
have  taken  effect.  The  casualties  of  the  153rd  Regiment  were  291 
(51  dead). 

On  the  western  flank,  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  about  9  a.m.  received 
a  summons  from  General  von  Kluck  "  to  cut  off  the  British,  who 
"  were  in  full  flight  westwards,"  and,  as  we  have  seen.  General  von 
Gronau  at  once  sent  forward  the  artillery  of  both  divisions,  with  a 
cavalry  escort.  Later  the  First  Army  ordered  him  to  make  a  wider 
sweep  towards  Crevecoeur,  and  then  carry  out  an  enveloping  attack 
against  the  enemy  position  at  Caudry,  but,  as  his  infantry  approached 
the  battlefield,  the  British  "  had  already  been  thrown  back  by  the 
"  cavalry  corps  on  to  their  position  south  of  the  Warnelle  stream. 
"  Without  knowledge  of  this,  at  1.30  p.m.  General  von  Gronau  ordered 
"  his  corps  to  attack  in  the  general  direction  of  Haucourt."  The 
7th  Reserve  Division,  as  it  advanced,  was,  however,  attacked  in  flank 
by  a  strong  body  of  French  cavalry  (Sordet),  and  when  this  retired 
the  Germans  followed  it  up  to  Crevecoeur.  Thence  the  division  tried 
to  get  back  to  its  original  direction,  crossed  and  became  mixed  up 
with  the  22nd  Reserve  Division,  and  reached  the  heights  north-west 
of  Haucourt  in  the  night,  when  it  was  considered  too  dark  to  attack. 
The  22nd  Reserve  Division  was  not  in  action  at  all  ;  its  leading  units 
reached  CreveccEur  and  spent  the  night  in  that  neighbourhood. 

The  //.  Corps  (General  von  Linsingen),  marching  from  Denain 
on  Cambrai,  was  "  held  up  by  weak  French  cavalry  bodies  and 
"  Territorial  troops,"  and  at  night  its  leading  units  reached  the 
billets  assigned  to  them  south-west  of  Cambrai. 

Marwitz's  cavalry  corps  was  assembled  east  of  Cambrai  after 
the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  came  up,  and  "  did  not  participate  further  in 
"  the  battle,  and  did  not  take  up  the  pursuit  of  the  British."  At 
dusk  it  concentrated  around  Naves  and   Cauroir,   two   villages  a 

VOL.  I  P 


210  LE  CATEAU 

couple  of  miles  north-east  and  east  of  Cambrai.  Of  its  losses,  we 
are  only  told  they  were  "  relatively  small."     (Poseck,  p,  63.) 

The  German  Official  Account  ends  with  the  words  :  "  the  result 
"  of  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau  was  an  uncontestable  success  for  the 
"  First  Army.''''    An  analysis  of  the  day  hardly  confirms  this  claim. 

Of  the  4|  German  corps  (the  ///.,  IV.,  IV.  Reserve,  II.  and  half 
of  the  IX.),  that  is  nine  divisions,  within  reach  of  the  battlefield  at 
dawn,  we  now  know  that  General  von  Kluck  managed  to  bring  only 
two  divisions  (the  7th  and  8th),  with  three  cavalry  divisions  against 
General  Smith-Dorrien's  three.  When  the  British  general  decided 
to  stand,  he  fully  expected  to  have  to  face  the  divisions  of  the  German 
First  Army  which  had  been  his  opponents  at  Mons.  It  was  the  great 
concentration  of  German  guns — the  artillery  of  five  divisions  {5th, 
7th,  8th,  7th  Reserve  and  22nd  Reserve)  and  three  cavalry  divisions, 
and  sixteen  5-9-inch  howitzers  of  the  IV.  Corps,  against  the  artillery 
of  three  British  divisions  (the  4th  Division  without  its  60-pdr. 
battery)  and  some  of  the  guns  of  the  Cavalry  Division — which  alone 
made  the  British  stand  difficult.  Only  on  the  right  (east),  however, 
where  the  German  guns  could  enfilade  the  British  line,  was  any 
impression  made.  Kluck's  strong  right  wing  of  two  corps  {IV. 
Reserve  and  //.)  was  fortunately  held  up  by  the  demonstrations  of 
Sordet's  cavalry  corps  and  the  84th  Territorial  Division,  and  of  his 
left  (///.  Corps),  one  division  merely  counter-marched  outside  the 
battlefield  and  the  other  marked  time,  its  head  covering  only  eleven 
miles  between  dawn  and  night. 


NOTE  II 

General  d'Amade's  Force  on  the  British  Left 
26th  August 

The  part  played  on  the  left  of  the  British  during  the  battle  of 
Le  Cateau  by  one  of  General  d'Amade's  divisions  has  been  generally 
overlooked  in  English  accounts,  and  receives  only  one  line  and  a 
half  in  the  French  Official  Account  (i.  (ii.)  p.  50)  :  "  in  the  afternoon 
"  the  enemy  attacked  Cambrai  and  drove  back  the  84th  Territorial 
"  Division,  which  retired  on  Marquion."  The  full  story  of  its  opera- 
tions has  yet  to  be  written,  but  sufficient  is  known  to  make  it  certain 
that  this  division  accounted  for  the  absence  of  the  German  //.  Corps. ^ 
This  corps  had  been  ordered,  on  the  evening  of  the  24th,  to  make  a 
wide  sweep  to  envelop  the  British  left  ^  and,  on  the  25th,  as  we  have 
seen,^  swung  westwards  through  Denain,  and  arrived  at  night  with 
the  heads  of  its  columns  about  nine  miles  north  of  Cambrai  and  little 
more  than  that  distance  from  the  British  left ;  it  was,  in  fact,  eight 
miles  nearer  to  it  than  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  at  Valenciennes,  which 
attacked  the  British  4th  Division  about  2  p.m.  on  the  26th. 

The  French  84th  Territorial  Division,  which  had  been  on  the 
left  of  the  British  at  Mons,  retreated  with  them,  and  on  the  night 
of  the  25th /26th  its  rear  guards  were  opposing  the  passage  of  the 
Sensee  canal  by  the  western  columns  of  the  German  //.  Corps,  at 

1  General  d'Amade's  82nd  Territorial  Division  was  holding  the  Haute 
Deule  canal  and  the  other  two  the  line  Lens — Bethune. 

2  Kluck,  p.  53.  3  Page  209. 


THE  FRENCH  84th  TERRITORIAL  DIVISION   211 

Bassin  Rond  and  Paillencourt,  just  south  of  Bouchain  and  some  six  20  Aug. 
miles  north  of  Cambrai.  1914. 

During  the  26th  August  the  division  was  gradually  pushed  back 
to  Cambrai,  and  then  westwards  through  the  town.  To  quote  the 
words  of  the  best  available  account :  ^ — 

"  The  defence  of  Cambrai  was  organized  along  its  north-western 
"  front  from  the  Pont  d'Aire  to  Tilloy  (both  1^  miles  north  of 
"  Cambrai).  .  .  .  The  attack  developed  on  the  morning  of  the  26th 
"  at  Escadoeuvres  (1|  miles  north-east  of  Cambrai  on  the  Solesmes 
"  road).  The  outpost  battalion  of  the  27th  Territorial  Regiment  fell 
"  back  to  the  'Pont  Rouge  '  and  the  railway  ;  the  25th  Territorial 
"  Regiment  took  up  a  position  by  the  Schelde  canal  bridge.  The 
"  final  stand  was  made  in  the  suburb  Saint  Olle  (on  the  western  side 
"  of  Cambrai),  which  the  staff  of  the  84th  Territorial  Division  left 
"  at  12.30  P.M.  Captain  Saglier,  of  the  27th,  defended  the  barricade 
"  near  the  church  till  about  2.15  p.m." 

The  French  61st  and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions  were  available  to 
cover  a  retreat,  but  were  not  near  enough  to  take  part  in  the  battle.^ 
These  divisions  were  railed  to  the  front  from  Paris,  and,  on  the  25th 
August,  detrained  at  Arras,  twenty  miles  from  Cambrai.  General 
d'Amade,  whose  headquarters  were  in  Arras,  having  received  reports 
that  columns  of  German  troops  were  marching  southwards  through 
Orchies  towards  Bouchain,  ordered  the  two  divisions  south-east 
towards  Cambrai,  part  of  them  by  train.  They  got  as  near  as 
Marquion,^  six  miles  from  Cambrai,  on  the  afternoon  of  the  26th, 
when  they  received  a  special  order  from  General  Joffre  ordering 
them  back  to  Combles  and  Peronne  with  a  view  to  the  formation 
of  the  Sixth  Army.  They  therefore  turned  westwards  again,  followed 
by  the  84th  Territorial  Division,  which  was  later  in  action  at  Marquion 
with  the  14th  Pomeranian  Regiment  (4th  Division  of  //.  Corps). 

Kluck's  account  claims  that  the  //.  Corps  drove  back  strong 
French  hostile  forces  on  the  26th.  But  for  the  presence  of  the  84th 
Territorial  Division  there  seems  no  doubt  that  the  //.  Corps  would 
have  taken  part  at  Le  Cateau  with  both  its  divisions. 

^  An  article  in  "  La  Renaissance  "  of  25th  November  1916,  quoted  by 
Colonel  Bujac  in  his  book  "  La  Belgique  envahie  "  (Fournier,  Paris  1910). 

2  See  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  p.  119  ;  Hanotaux,  vii.  p.  298  ;  and  Palat,  v. 
p.  134. 

^  Ouy-Venazobres,  "  Journal  d'un  officier  de  cavalerie,"  p.  23. 


CHAPTER  X 

THE    RETREAT    [continued) 

27th-28th  august 
(Sketches  A,  4,  10  &  12a  ;  Maps  3,  4,  12,  13,  14  &  15) 

Smith-Dorrien's  Force 

Sketches  Very  soon  after  daylight  on  the  27th  August,  British 
Maps*3  troops  began  to  pour  into  St.  Quentin.  The  1st  Cavalry 
«&  13.  '  Brigade  and  most  of  the  2nd  were  fed  and  sent  a  few  miles 
south  to  Grand  Seraueourt,  where  they  arrived,  men  and 
horses  completely  exhausted.  The  duty  of  forming  a 
covering  screen  to  the  north  of  the  town  was  therefore 
assigned  to  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  (Br.-General  H.  de  la 
P.  Gough),  which,  together  with  the  Composite  Regiment 
of  Household  Cavalry,  had  reached  a  position  at  Homblieres 
just  to  the  east  of  St.  Quentin  at  4  a.m. 

At  5  A.M.  the  14th  Brigade  trudged  into  the  town, 
received  its  rations  and  re-formed  its  battalions.  Trains 
had  already  been  ordered  on  the  railway,  as  well  as  carts 
and  wagons  on  the  roads,  for  the  conveyance  of  men  who 
could  march  no  further.  The  remainder  of  the  5th  Division 
came  in  later,  when  the  sun  of  a  scorching  day  was 
already  high  in  the  heavens.  Stragglers  from  the  3rd  and 
4th  Divisions  who  had  drifted  eastward — no  doubt  because 
the  retirement  had  been  commenced  on  the  right — contri- 
buted to  an  appearance  of  confusion  which  was  completely 
absent  on  the  routes  of  those  divisions  themselves  and  of 
the  battalions  of  the  5th  Division,  which  marched  into  the 
town  as  properly  formed  bodies.^     After  a  halt  of  an  hour 

^  An  extract  from  the  war  diary  of  a  unit  of  the  French  1st  Cavahy 
Division  of  this  date  deserves  quotation  : 

"  We  crossed  the  route  of  an  Englisli  battahon  retiring  after  having 
"  suffered  very  heavy  losses.  It  moved  in  touching  order  :  at  the  head, 
"  imperturbable,  a  party  of  wounded.  I  ordered  a  salute  to  be  given  to 
"  these  brave  men." 

212 


SMITH-DORRIEN'S  FORCE  213 

or  two  for  rest  and  food,  the  men  recovered  in  an  astonish-  27  Aug. 
ing  fashion  ;  when  they  resumed  their  march,  they  were  i^^-** 
no  longer  silent  and  dogged,  but  cheerfully  whisthng  and 
singing.  The  5th  Division  then  pursued  its  way,  after  a  halt 
for  the  re-arrangement  of  the  column,  without  any  interfer- 
ence from  the  enemy,  and  before  dark  was  in  position  south 
of  the  Somme  about  Ollezy,  with  its  ranks  and  batteries 
sadly  thinned,  but  ready  again  to  meet  the  enemy. 

The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  acting  as  rear  guard,  was 
equally  unmolested.  It  was  joined  at  10  a.m.  by  that  part 
of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  (Br.-General  H.  de  B.  de  Lisle) 
which  had  marched  westward  across  the  rear  of  the  II.  Corps 
on  the  26th  and  retraced  its  steps  eastward  at  dawn  on  the 
27th.  Not  until  2.30  p.m.  was  there  any  sign  of  the  enemy 
advancing  southwards  in  this  quarter,^  and  then  the  3rd 
Cavalry  Brigade  fell  back  deliberately  to  Itancourt  (4  miles 
south-east  of  St.  Quentin),  E  Battery  exchanging  a  few 
rounds  with  the  German  guns  before  it  retired.  West  of 
St.  Quentin,  the  9th  Lancers  (2nd  Cavalry  Brigade)  found 
contact  with  the  enemy  near  Fresnoy,  but  did  not  with- 
draw from  that  place  until  6  p.m.  and  then  only  to  Savy 
(south-west  of  St.  Quentin).  There  they  and  the  greater 
part  of  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade  took  up  their  billets  for  the 
night,  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  being  on  their  right  at  Itan- 
court, and  the  1st  in  support  at  Grand  Seraucourt. 

Further  to  the  west,  the  3rd  Division  was  hardly  more 
molested  than  the  5th.  After  turning  west  from  Bellicourt 
(8  miles  north  by  west  of  St.  Quentin),  it  halted  from  9  a.m. 
until  1  P.M.  at  Hargicourt,  and  then  continued  its  way  south 
to  Villeret  (2  miles  south-west  of  Bellicourt).  There  a  small 
party  of  German  cavalry,  accompanied  by  guns,  made  some 
demonstration  of  pursuit,  but,  having  no  wish  to  engage  what 
seemed  to  be  British  infantry,  speedily  retired  when  greeted 
by  a  few  rifle  bullets  from  the  men  of  the  109th  Battery. 
The  division  next  marched  to  Vermand,  where  supplies 
were  issued  about  4  p.m.,  and  at  10  p.m.  it  resumed  its  march 
to  Ham.  The  9th  Brigade  acted  as  rear  guard  throughout, 
having  suffered  little  in  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau. 

The  4th  Division  on  the  left  was  followed  up  rather 
more  closely  by  the  German  cavalry.  The  11th  Brigade, 
from  Serain,  moved  across  country  to  Nauroy,  just  to  the 
south-east  of  Bellicourt,  on  the  morning  of  the  27th,  and 
halted  there  at  8.30  a.m.  to  allow  the  3rd  Division  to  pass. 

^  The  enemy  seen,  according  to  Billow's  Sketch  Map  2,  was  divisional 
cavalry  of  the  i'll.  Corps,  the  right  of  his  Army. 


214  THE  RETREAT 

Rather  more  than  an  hour  later  the  cavalry  squadron  of 
the  3rd  Division  reported  the  enemy's  presence  in  the 
adjacent  villages,  and,  before  the  brigade  had  left  its  billets, 
German  guns  opened  on  Nauroy  at  a  range  of  a  thousand 
yards.  To  cover  the  retirement  of  the  brigade,  Br. -General 
Hunter-Weston  ordered  Colonel  S.  C.  F.  Jackson  of  the 
Hampshire  to  engage  the  guns.  Acting  on  these  orders,  the 
latter  sent  two  parties  to  take  up  a  position  to  the  east  of 
Nauroy  and  open  fire  on  them.  After  an  engagement  with 
enemy's  dismounted  cavalry  and  cyclists,  Colonel  Jackson 
was  wounded  and  taken  prisoner,  but  his  men  stood  fast 
until  the  retiring  brigade  was  out  of  sight,  and  then  with- 
drew, eventually  rejoining  the  brigade  on  the  high  ground 
beyond  the  canal.  The  main  body  meanwhile  had  moved 
south-west  to  Villeret,  picking  up  en  route  Major  Prowse's 
party  of  the  Somerset  L.I.  from  Ligny,  a  party  of  the  1/Rifle 
Brigade  under  Captain  Hon.  H.  C.  Prittie,  and  other  men 
who  had  stayed  late  on  the  battlefield.  Thence  the  11th 
Brigade,  "  fairly  all  right  "  as  Br. -General  Hunter-Weston 
reported,  marched  through  Tertry,  where  it  struck  the 
divisional  route  to  Voyennes. 

The  10th  Brigade  and  4th  Cavalry  Brigade  (in  touch  with 
General  Sordet's  cavalry  on  the  left)  had  meanwhile  passed 
on  to  Roisel  (8  miles  south-west  of  Le  Catelet),  where  both 
made  a  short  halt  ;  the  12th  Brigade,  which  had  gone  on 
with  the  artillery,  deployed  at  Ronssoy  (4  miles  south-west 
of  Le  Catelet),  with  the  Carabiniers,  borrowed  from  the  4th 
Cavalry  Brigade,  at  Lempire  to  cover  it,  as  several  German 
aeroplanes  flying  over  the  division  and  the  appearance 
of  a  few  cavalry  scouts  were  indications  that  the  enemy 
might  be  in  close  pursuit.  Nothing,  however,  happened. 
The  10th  Brigade  then  pursued  its  way  to  Hancourt,  where 
it  arrived  at  4  p.m.  The  12th  Brigade  retired  from  Ronssoy 
at  11  A.M.,  and  reached  Hancourt  between  5.30  and  6  p.m., 
where  Major  Parker's  party  of  the  King's  Own  overtook 
it.  At  Hancourt,  by  divisional  orders,  these  two  brigades 
entrenched  and  rested,  awaiting  the  enemy  ;  but  none 
appeared.  At  9.30  p.m.  (all  wounded  and  transport,  which 
included  many  requisitioned  and  country  wagons,  having 
been  sent  off  two  hours  earlier)  the  march  of  the  4th 
Division  was  resumed  in  inky  darkness  by  Vraignes,  Monchy 
Lagache  and  Matigny  upon  Voyennes.  There  was  not  the 
slightest  hindrance  from  the  enemy,  but  men  and  horses 
were  so  utterly  weary  that  the  usual  hourly  halts  were 
omitted  for  fear  that  if  the  whole  division  were  once  halted 


THE  4th  division  215 

and  the  men  sat  or  lay  down,  they  would  never  be  got  27  Aug. 
moving  again.  1914. 

The  stoppages  and  checks  inseparable  from  the  march 
of  a  long  column  in  the  dark  were  doubly  nerve-racking  to 
the  Staff  during  this  period  ;  for  not  only  might  they  mean 
that  the  division  would  be  delayed  and  have  incredible 
difficulty  in  restarting — as  men  were  lying  on  the  roads 
careless  of  whether  wheels  went  over  them  or  not — but  also 
that  enemy  cavalry  had  cut  in  ahead  or  on  the  flank  of  the 
column.  With  strained  ears  the  officers  listened  for  firing, 
and  only  breathed  again  when  the  tremor  of  movement 
crept  down  the  column  and  they  heard  the  glad  sound  of 
the  crunch  of  wheels  on  the  road.  Such  was  the  discipline, 
however,  that  not  a  single  shot  was  fired  in  alarm  during 
this  and  the  many  other  nights  of  marching  in  August  and 
September  1914.  Under  direction  of  the  divisional  staffs, 
parties  sent  on  ahead  blocked  all  side  and  cross  roads,  so 
that  units,  even  if  gaps  in  the  column  occurred,  could  not 
go  astray.  Measures  were  taken  by  the  interpreters  ^  in 
all  the  villages  passed  through  to  detect  the  presence  of 
spies,  generally  by  the  simple  process  of  a  language  test. 
But  for  this  precaution  and  the  difficulties  of  adjusting  the 
foreign  harness  of  the  requisitioned  vehicles,  officers  and 
men  might  have  dreamed,  and  many  did  dream,  as  they 
mechanically  moved  on  that  they  were  back  at  autumn 
manoeuvres. 

The  Carabiniers  remained  in  position  about  Lempire  till 
noon,  by  which  time  German  infantry  came  into  sight  ; 
but,  though  heavily  shelled,  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade  with- 
drew unharmed  to  Hesbecourt,  and  after  waiting  there  till 
2.30  P.M.  fell  back  westwards  in  rear  of  the  4th  Division  by 
Bernes,  Hancourt  and  Cartigny  to  Le  Mesnil,  thence  going 
south,  finally  crossing  the  Somme  after  nightfall  and  reach- 
ing Rouy,  near  Voyennes,  at  1  a.m.  on  the  28th.  The  4th 
Division,  three  hours  later — at  4  a.m. — began  passing  the 
Somme  valley  into  Voyennes,  at  the  very  spot  where  Henry 
V.  had  crossed  the  river  in  his  retreat  northwards  on  Agin- 
court.  At  Voyennes  Br. -General  Hunter-Weston  with  the 
main  body  of  the  11th  Brigade  rejoined. 

Thus  by  dawn  on  the  28th,  Sir  Horace  Smith-Dorrien 
had  practically  brought  the  whole  of  his  force  to  the  south 
of  the  Somme,  thirty-five  miles  from  the  battlefield  of  the 
26th. 

^  A  French  officer  or  soldier  was  allotted  to  each  Staff  and  unit  as 
interpreter  and  go-between  in  business  with  the  local  officials. 


216  THE  RETREAT 

The  position  of  the  various  formations  was  approxi- 
mately as  follows  : — ■ 

etches  1st,  2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  : 

•^  '*•  In  a  semi-circle,  four  miles  south  of  St.  Quentin,  from 

"^  &  14.  Itancourt,  through  Urvillers  and  Grand  Seraucourt  to 

Savy. 
The  remainder  of  the  force  was  south  of  the  Somme,  with 
rear  guards  on  the  northern  bank. 
5th  Division  and  19th  Brigade  : 

South-west  of  the  cavalry  brigades,  at  Ollezy  and  Eaucourt, 
near  where  the  Crozat  canal  meets  the  Somme. 
3rd  Division  : 

On  the  left  of  the  5th  : 

7th  Brigade — Ham,  on  the  Somme. 
8th  Brigade — On  march  to  Ham  from  Vermand. 
9th  Brigade — Ham. 
4th  Division  : 

On  the  left  of  the  3rd,  at  Voyennes  on  the  Somme. 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade  : 

On  the  left  of  the  4th  Division,  at  Rouy. 

It  was  tolerably  evident  that  the  German  pursuit,  if  it 
can  be  said  ever  to  have  been  seriously  begun,  had  been 
shaken  off.  There  were,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  already  some 
indications  that  General  von  Kluck  was  pressing  south- 
westward  rather  than  southward.  General  Sordet's  cavalry 
corps  and  the  61st  and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions  had  been 
in  conflict  with  German  troops  about  Peronne  on  the 
afternoon  of  the  27th,  but  British  cavalry  re-entering  St. 
Quentin  at  dawn  on  the  28th  found  no  sign  of  the  enemy. 
These  indications,  however,  came  too  late  to  be  of  any  help 
to  the  British  Commander-in-Chief  on  the  27th.  As  regards 
the  German  //.  Corps,  the  most  westerly  of  Kluck's  Army, 
the  reports  of  air  reconnaissances  in  the  early  morning, 
taken  in  conjunction  with  General  Smith-Dorrien's  verbal 
report  at  midnight  on  the  26th/27th  after  the  battle  of  Le 
Cateau,  were  reassuring.  The  road  from  Le  Cateau  was 
absolutely  clear ;  there  were  neither  British  rear  guards  to 
be  seen  north,  nor  German  advanced  guards  south  of  a  line 
drawn  east  and  west  through  Peronne.  But,  near  Guise, 
a  heavy  column  ^  had  been  observed  moving  southward  on 
the  road  between  La  Groise  and  fitreux  (12  and  6  miles, 
respectively,  north  of  Guise),  besides  other  troops  at  Le 
Nouvion  (10  miles  north-east  of  Guise)  ;  and  Sir  John 
French  had  as  yet  no  clear  information  to  show  whether 

^  Billow's  X.  Reserve  Corps. 


FURTHER  RETIREMENT  ORDERED         217 

these  were  friendly  or  hostile.  Soon  after  7  a.m.  he  received,  27  Aug. 
through  the  French  Mission,  an  encouraging  telephone  ^^^■** 
message  from  French  G.Q.G.,  that  the  Fifth  Army  had  been 
ordered  to  make  a  vigorous  attack  abreast  of  Vervins — 
Guise  against  the  enemy  forces  {Second  Army)  which  were 
following  it,  and  that  Sordet's  cavalry  corps  would  protect 
the  B.E.F.  against  an  enveloping  attack  on  the  left.  The 
enemy  forces  on  the  British  front,  it  continued,  appeared 
to  be  worn  out  and  not  in  a  state  to  pursue  :  in  these  cir- 
cumstances the  B.E.F.  could  retire  methodically,  regulating 
its  pace  by  that  of  the  Fifth  Army,  so  as  not  to  uncover  the 
flank  of  the  latter.  At  11  a.m.  General  Joffre  visited  Sir 
John  French  at  Noyon  to  impress  on  him  that  he  was 
already  preparing  his  counter-stroke,  but,  in  order  to  effect 
it,  needed  to  fall  back  further  than  he  had  first  intended  to 
a  line  from  Reims  to  Amiens,  of  which  he  proposed  that 
the  British  should  occupy  the  section  between  Noyon  and 
Roye  (12  miles  north-west  of  Noyon).  In  furtherance  of  Sketch 
this  plan,  Sir  John  French,  in  a  message  timed  8.30  p.m.,  12a. 
directed  the  II.  Corps,  with  the  19th  Brigade,  to  be  clear  ^^P^  ^ 
of  Ham  by  daylight  on  the  28th,  to  march  to  Noyon  and 
cross  to  the  left  bank  of  the  Oise  ;  the  4th  Division  to  cover 
the  retirement  from  ground  north  of  the  Somme ;  and  the 
Cavalry  Division  to  cover  both  the  II.  Corps  and  the  4th 
Division.  He  added  an  order  that  all  unnecessary  impedi- 
menta and  all  ammunition  not  absolutely  required  should 
be  thrown  away,  so  that  vehicles  might  be  available  to 
carry  exhausted  men.^ 

On  the  27th,  although  clouds  made  air  observation 
difficult,  the  Flying  Corps  was  asked  by  G.H.Q.  to  ascer- 
tain enemy  movement  from  the  line  Cambrai — Landrecies 
southward,  also  any  movement  of  enemy  cavalry  on  the 
western  flank,  and  to  obtain  news  of  the  I.  Corps.  Communi- 
cation was  established  with  the  latter,  and  a  message  brought 
from  General  Haig  ;  but,  as  the  German  First  Army  was 
leaving  the  area  which  was  to  be  reconnoitred,  and  the 
Second  Army  only  just  reaching  it,  little  was  seen  of  the 
enemy  :  the  march  of  the  German  7th  Division  from  Le 
Cateau  to  Le  Catelet  was,  however,  correctly  reported. 
Most  of  the  troops  seen  on  the  roads  were  British,  and  one 
airman,  who  came  down  so  low  that  he  could  distinguish 
khaki,  was  heavily  fired  on.  A  report  stating  that  there 
were  three  battalions  in  Bernes  (9  miles  north-west  of  St. 
Quentin),  on  the  eastern  flank  of  the  line  of  march  of  the 

^  Appendix  17. 


218  THE  RETREAT 

4th  Division,  was  forwarded  to  Major-General  Snow  by 
G.H.Q.,  with  the  addition  that  they  were  probably  Ger- 
mans. The  officer  despatched  to  reconnoitre  soon  estab- 
hshed  that  they  were  units  of  the  3rd  Division.  Troops 
were  also  reported  marching  westwards  from  Peronne ; 
these  are  now  known  to  have  been  French. 

A  spirit  of  pessimism,  entirely  absent  from  the  three 
divisions  which  had  fought  at  Le  Cateau,  seems  to  have 
prevailed  at  G.H.Q.  in  the  evening  ;  for  Colonel  Huguet 
telephoned,  for  the  information  of  General  Joffre,  that  he 
had  gathered  the  British  Army  would  not  be  in  a  state  to 
take  part  in  the  campaign  again  until  after  a  long  rest  and 
complete  reorganization  :  this  for  three  out  of  the  five 
divisions  would  require  a  period  of  several  days,  even 
several  weeks,  and  under  conditions  which  it  was  not  yet 
possible  to  determine  :  the  British  Government  might 
even  insist  that  the  whole  force  should  return  to  its  base 
at  Havre  in  order  to  recuperate.^ 
ketches  After  the  very  strenuous  efforts  of  the  previous  days,  a 
J  ^  ■*•  further  retreat  with  hardly  a  moment's  rest  was  a  very 
3^&  15.  serious  trial  to  the  II.  Corps,  for  many  of  its  units  were  still 
on  the  march  when  the  orders  to  continue  reached  them. 
At  4  A.M.  on  the  28th  the  5th  Division  marched  from  Ollezy 
for  Noyon,  with  frequent  halts,  since  the  day  was  oppressively 
hot.  As  many  men  as  possible  were  carried  on  vehicles 
of  one  kind  or  another.  The  52nd  Battery  of  the  XV. 
Brigade,  far  from  being  demoralized  by  the  loss  of  all  its 
guns,  had  already  been  formed  into  a  corps  of  mounted 
rifles  ;  on  its  way  it  passed  Sir  John  French  himself,  who 
praised  its  good  work  and  assured  it  that  this  had  not 
been  done  in  vain,  since  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau  had  saved 
the  left  flank  of  the  French  Army.^  After  a  short  halt  at 
Noyon,  the  5th  Division  moved  on  to  Pontoise,  and  there 
at  last  went  into  billets.  The  3rd  Division  followed,  halting 
at  Crissolles  and  Genvry,  just  short  of  Noyon,  between  6 
and  7  p.m.  Physically  it  was  nearly  worn  out  after  march- 
ing sixty-eight  miles  in  fifty  hours,  but  morally  its  spirit 
was  unbroken.  Last  came  the  4th  Division,  not  less 
exhausted  than  the  rest.  At  4  a.m.  this  division  had 
received,  by  motor  cyclist,  G.H.Q.  orders,  issued  at  8.30 
P.M.  on  the  previous  evening,  to  occupy  a  position  north  of 
the  Somme  ;  but  whilst  preparations  to  do  so  were  being 
made,  later  orders  arrived  about  6  a.m.  directing  it  to  be 

1  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  p.  56. 
*  See  General  Joffre's  message  in  Note  III.  at  end  of  Chapter. 


HAIG'S  I.  CORPS  219 

ready  to  continue  the  retirement  at  8  a.m.  Leaving  the  28  Aug. 
12th  Brigade  for  a  time  on  the  northern  bank  to  work  in  1914. 
combination  with  the  rear  guard  of  the  3rd  Division,  the 
remainder  of  the  division,  which  still  consisted  of  artillery 
and  infantry  only,  took  up  positions  on  the  south  bank  of 
the  Somme.  The  retirement  was  continued  at  1.30  p.m., 
the  3rd  Division  having  withdrawn  its  rear  guard  from 
Ham  about  an  hour  earlier.  The  4th  Division  reached  its 
halting-places,  Bussy,  Freniches  and  Campagne,  just  north 
of  those  of  the  3rd  Division,  shortly  before  midnight. 

Meanwhile,  of  the  Cavalry  Division,  the  3rd  Brigade 
had  extended  eastward,  seeking  touch  with  the  I.  Corps, 
and  its  movements  will  be  related  in  due  course  with  those 
of  that  corps.  The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade,  after  completing 
its  reconnaissance  at  St.  Quentin,  fell  back  with  great 
deliberation  to  the  Somme  at  Ham,  whence,  having  crossed 
the  river,  it  moved  southwards  to  Berlancourt.  The  2nd 
Cavalry  Brigade  likewise  fell  back  by  Douilly  upon  Ham, 
and  halted  just  north-east  of  the  4th  Division  at  Le  Plessis 
and  Flavy  le  Meldeux.  Patrols  of  German  cavalry  had 
been  seen  at  Douilly,  but  no  force  of  greater  importance. 
The  4th  Cavalry  Brigade,  on  the  extreme  left,  withdrew 
shortly  before  noon  to  Cressy,  a  short  distance  south  of 
Nesle  and  four  miles  north  of  the  4th  Division,  leaving 
French  cavalry  and  guns,  with  which  it  had  been  in  touch, 
to  deal  with  enemy  troops  reported  to  be  at  Mesnil,  just 
north  of  Nesle. 

The  worst  trials  of  General  Smith-Dorrien's  force  were 
now  over.  Since  the  23rd  August,  the  II.  Corps  had 
fought  two  general  actions,  besides  several  minor  affairs, 
and  had  marched  just  over  a  hundred  miles,  measured  on 
the  map  by  the  route  taken  by  the  3rd  Division. 

Haig's  I.  Corps 

At  1  A.M.  on  the  27th  the  Staff  of  the  French  Fifth  Sketches 
Army  arranged  with  General  Haig  that  the  road  through  A  &  4. 
Guise  should  be  left  to  the  British  ;  ^   and,  since  there  was  i2*&  13. 
no  choice  but  for  the  whole  of  the  I.  Corps  to  march  by 
this  single  highway,  unless  part  were  sent  by  less  direct 
roads  on  the  west  side  of  the  Oise,  all  vehicles  were  "  double- 
banked,"  and  staff  officers  were  sent  forward  to  Guise  to 
provide  for  the  passage  of  two  distinct  streams  of  traffic 
through  the  town.     The  operation  promised  to  be  critical, 

^  The  Reserve  divisions  crossed  the  Oise  by  bridges  above  Guise. 


220  THE  RETREAT  OF  THE  I.  CORPS 

in  view  of  the  gap  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps  having 
widened  rather  than  decreased  on  the  26th,  while  to  the 
north  and  north-east  the  enemy  was  reported  to  be  in 
considerable  strength.  The  situation  was  not  rendered 
less  anxious  by  a  false  report,  which  was  current  early 
in  the  afternoon,  that  the  Germans  were  also  in  great  force 
just  to  the  north  of  St.  Quentin.  General  Maxse's  (the 
1st,  Guards)  Brigade  was  detailed  as  rear  guard  to  both 
divisions  ;  General  Bulfin's  (2nd)  Brigade  as  a  western 
flank  guard  ;  and  the  2/Welch,  with  the  46th  Battery 
R.F.A.,  as  eastern  flank  guard.  Great  stress  was  laid  on 
the  importance  of  holding  the  enemy  at  a  distance  from  the 
high  ground  on  the  north-west  between  Fesmy  and  Was- 
signy,  so  that  he  should  be  unable  to  bombard  ]^treux, 
where  supplies  were  to  be  issued  to  the  troops  as  they  passed 
through.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  sent  well  to  the 
west  on  the  other  side  of  the  Oise,  with  instructions  to 
follow  a  route,  parallel  to  the  divisions,  by  Grougis,  Aison- 
ville,  Noyales  and  Hauteville.  Meanwhile,  Br. -General 
Chetwode,  its  commander,  led  it  to  a  central  position  five 
miles  to  the  west  of  I^treux,  between  Mennevret  and  Le 
Petit  Verly,  and  pushed  out  patrols  to  the  north  and  north- 
west. 

The  corps  was  under  way  by  4  a.m.,  the  1st  Division 
remaining  in  a  covering  position  until  the  2nd  Division 
had  all  moved  off.  The  latter  reached  its  billets  without 
the  slightest  molestation,  but  the  march  for  the  5th  Brigade 
from  Barzy  to  Neuvillette  (8  miles  south-west  of  Guise) 
was  long ;  the  2 /Highland  Light  Infantry,  in  particular, 
having  been  employed  in  repairing  the  roads  at  dawn, 
did  not  arrive  at  its  halting-place  until  10  p.m.,  after  a 
tramp  of  thirty  miles.  The  false  alarm  of  the  enemy's 
presence  at  St.  Quentin  kept  the  entire  division  in  move- 
ment longer  than  would  otherwise  have  been  necessary, 
for  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  was  sent  out  westward  as 
a  flank  guard,  and  the  6th  Brigade  spent  the  night  en- 
trenching itself  just  east  of  the  5th,  about  Mont  d'Origny. 

The  1st  Division  remained  in  position  until  late  in  the 
afternoon,  with  rear  and  flank  guards  out,  waiting  for  the 
road  to  be  clear  ;  but  there  was  no  sign  of  serious  pressure 
upon  the  line  north-west  of  ]5treux,  to  which  so  much 
[ap  12.  importance  was  attached.  In  Br. -General  Maxse's  rear 
guard,  the  1/Coldstream  were  about  Oisy  (2  miles  north  of 
Etreux),  beyond  the  canal,  and  the  1 /Black  Watch  and 
1/Scots  Guards  just  to  the  west  of  them,  in  touch  with  the 


fiTREUX  221 

western  flank  guard  at  Wassigny  ;  the  R.  Munster  Fusiliers,  27  Aug. 
with  two  troops  of  the  15th  Hussars  and  a  section  of  the  ^^^*- 
118th  Battery  R.F.A.,  all  under  Major  P.  A.  Charrier  of 
the  Munsters,  formed  the  rear  party  east  of  the  Sambre 
canal,  and  had  been  under  arms,  facing  north-east,  since 
dawn.  The  general  position  of  this  party  was  four  miles 
from  ^iStreux,  and  extended  for  two  miles,  from  Bergues 
through  Fesmy  to  Chapeau  Rouge,  where  it  struck  the 
north — south  road  from  Landrecies  to  Etreux.  The 
eastern  flank  guard  was  in  position  to  the  south-east,  on 
the  hill  south  of  Bergues.  The  ground  here  falls  gently 
westwards  to  the  Sambre  canal,  which  flows  first  on  one 
side,  then  on  the  other,  of  the  Landrecies  road.  The 
country  lent  itself  to  defence,  being  divided  into  small  en- 
closures by  thick  hedges,  which  were  passable  at  certain 
gaps  only.  During  the  morning  a  thick  white  mist  lay 
upon  the  ground,  and  later  there  was  a  thunder-storm,  so 
that  visibility  was  never  good. 

Two  companies  of  the  Munsters  were  about  Chapeau 
Rouge  as  screen,  watching  the  roads  that  run  north-west- 
wards and  northwards  to  Catillon  and  La  Groise,  and  the 
remainder  of  the  rear  party  were  half  a  mile  to  the  south- 
east in  front  of  Fesmy.  Later,  half  a  company,  and  one 
troop  of  the  15th  Hussars,  were  pushed  south-eastwards  to 
Bergues.  No  sign  of  the  enemy  was  seen  until  9  a.m., 
when  a  German  cavalry  patrol  came  down  the  road  to 
Chapeau  Rouge  from  the  north,  halted  within  five  hundred 
yards,  and  fired  a  few  shots.  The  Munsters  made  no 
reply,  but  the  Germans  did  not  come  closer.  There  were 
indications  of  another  column  of  the  enemy  to  the  north- 
east, moving  south-westwards  from  Prisches  upon  Le 
Sart,  straight  at  the  centre  of  Major  Charrier's  force  ;  but 
its  advanced  party  had  galloped  back  on  the  appearance 
of  a  corporal  of  the  15th  Hussars.  By  9.30  a.m.  all  was 
again  quiet,  and  Lieut. -Colonel  C.  B.  Morland  of  the 
2 /Welch  informed  Major  Charrier  that  he  was  going  to 
withdraw  the  eastern  flank  guard  to  Boue  (2  miles  north- 
east of  I^treux).  Br. -General  Maxse  directed  the  Munsters 
to  hold  on  to  their  position  until  ordered  or  forced  to  retire, 
and  Major  Charrier  sent  back  word  that,  the  choice  of  the 
route  being  left  to  him,  he  also  should  fall  back  by  the 
road  to  Boue.  The  best  part  of  an  hour  passed  away, 
when,  towards  10.30  a.m.,  German  infantry  came  down 
again  from  the  north-east  and  opened  an  attack  on 
Bergues,  which  a  little  later  was  extended  also  to  Chapeau 


222     THE  RETREAT  OF  THE  I.  CORPS 

Rouge.  The  Munsters  being  by  this  time  entrenched, 
held  their  own  with  Httle  difficulty  ;  the  two  guns  found 
a  target  in  a  German  column  to  the  north-west,  and  all 
went  well. 

At  11  A.M.,  whilst  this  action  was  in  progress,  the  3rd 
Brigade  was  at  last  able  to  start  southward  from  Oisy  ; 
at  the  same  time  Colonel  Morland's  flank  guard  also  moved 
south  upon  Boue.  The  firing  died  away,  and  at  noon 
Br. -General  Maxse  confirmed  Major  Charrier's  choice  of 
the  road  for  his  retreat,  at  the  same  time  sending  to  all 
units  of  the  rear  guard  their  final  instructions  for  retire- 
ment, the  hour  only  being  left  blank.  By  12.20  p.m.  the 
road  at  l^treux  was  reported  clear  of  all  transport ;  and 
a  little  later  Br.-General  Maxse  despatched  orders  (time 
1  P.M.)  to  every  unit  of  the  rear  guard,  "  Retire  at  once." 
This  message,  though  sent  by  two  routes,  failed  to  reach 
the  Munster  Fusiliers. 

Meanwhile,  at  12.30  p.m.  or  thereabouts,  German 
infantry  developed  its  attack  in  greater  strength  on  both 
flanks,  at  Bergues  and  at  Chapeau  Rouge,  though,  as  yet, 
without  the  support  of  artillery.  As  the  pressure  became 
heavier,  in  accordance  with  Major  Charrier's  orders  the 
two  companies  at  Chapeau  Rouge  gradually  withdrew 
south-eastwards  towards  Fesmy.  The  men,  finding  good 
shelter  in  the  ditches  by  the  side  of  the  road,  worked  their 
way  back  with  very  shght  loss,  and  by  shooting  down 
the  Germans  as  they  showed  themselves  at  the  gaps  in  the 
hedges,  forbade  any  close  pursuit.  The  guns  also  opened 
fire,  first  towards  the  north,  and  later  to  the  north-east, 
in  which  quarter  the  enemy  was  now  observed  to  be 
in  greatest  force.  Following  up  the  Munsters  slowly,  the 
Germans  delivered  a  strong  attack  upon  Fesmy,  their  guns 
now  coming  into  action  for  the  first  time  ;  but  they  made 
little  progress.  The  Munsters'  machine  guns  did  very 
deadly  work,  firing  down  the  road  from  Fesmy  to  Le  Sart ; 
the  Germans  tried  to  mask  their  advance  by  driving  cattle 
down  on  the  defenders,  but  to  no  purpose.  At  1.15  p.m. 
Major  Charrier  sent  to  Br.-General  Maxse  this  short 
message  :  "  Am  holding  on  to  position  north  of  Fesmy 
"  village,  being  attacked  by  force  of  all  arms.  Getting 
"  on  well.  The  Germans  are  driving  cattle  in  front  of 
"  them  up  to  us  for  cover.     We  are  kilhng  plenty  of  them." 

Thus  holding  his  own.  Major  Charrier's  chief  anxiety 
was  for  his  detachment  at  Bergues.  He  pushed  out  a 
platoon  to  the  eastward,  in  the  hope  of  gaining  touch  with  it. 


ifiTREUX  223 

but  the  platoon  was  driven   back   by  superior  numbers.  27  Aug. 
The  troops  at  Bergues  were,  in  fact,  about  this  time  forced   ^^i"*- 
out  of  the  village  and  compelled  to  retreat  southward  to 
a  farm  ;    here,  after  checking  German  pursuit  by  fire  and 
then  counter-attacking,  the  detachment  retired  westward 
to  the  Sambre  canal,  and  thence  down  the  road  to  Oisy. 

Meanwhile,  Major  Charrier  continued  his  defence  of 
Fesmy  with  great  spirit  ;  he  had  now  the  whole  of  his 
battalion,  except  the  half-company  at  Bergues,  under  his 
hand  ;  and  he  had  need  of  them.  So  resolute  was  the 
onset  of  the  Germans  that,  in  places,  they  approached  to 
within  a  hundred  and  fifty  yards  of  the  village  ;  a  few 
actually  broke  into  it  and  shot  down  two  of  the  artillery 
wagon  teams.  Every  one  of  these  bold  men  was  killed  or 
captured,  and  at  1.50  p.m.  Major  Charrier  sent  off  the  last 
message  which  came  through  from  him  to  Br.-General 
Maxse  :  "  We  have  German  wounded  prisoners,  who  say 
"  that  about  two  regiments  are  opposing  us  and  some  guns. 
"  They  belong  to  the  15th  Regiment.'"  ^ 

About  this  time — 1.45  to  2  p.m. — the  2nd  Brigade,  the 
western  flank  guard,  marched  away  from  Wassigny  for 
Hannapes,  south  of  I^treux,  with  little  hindrance  ;  the 
Northamptonshire,  who  brought  up  the  rear,  lost  only  four 
men,  and  claimed  on  their  side  from  forty  to  fifty  German 
troopers  killed,  wounded  or  taken  prisoner.^  Thus  the 
greater  part  of  the  1st  Division  was  now  in  motion  to  the 
south  ;  the  3rd  Brigade  was  within  an  hour's  march  of 
Guise  ;  and  there  remained  only  the  rear  guard  to  bring  off. 
Major  Charrier,  having  struck  the  enemy  hard,  with  little 
loss  to  himself,  at  2.30  p.m.  threw  out  flank  guards  wide  upon 
each  side  and  began  his  retreat  upon  Oisy.  The  movement 
was  necessarily  slow,  the  flanking  parties  being  impeded  by 
hedges,  and  it  was  some  time  before  the  rearmost  of  the 
Munsters  and  the  two  guns  left  Fesmy.  At  3  p.m.  the 
cyclist,  who  had  failed  to  deliver  the  copy  of  Br.-General 
Maxse's  final  order  to  Major  Charrier,  reached  the  Coldstream 
Guards  near  Oisy,  and  gave  them  their  instructions  to  retire 

^  They  really  belonged  to  the  15th  Reserve  Regiment,  of  the  2nd  Guard 
Reserve  Division  {X.  Reserve  Corps)  of  the  Second  Army.  The  history  of 
this  regiment  (p.  65)  speaks  of  "receiving  fire  at  every  turn  of  the  road, 
"  whilst  marching  off  it  was  impossible  owing  to  the  2-metre  high  hedges, 
"  threaded  with  wire  and  almost  impenetrable.  .  .  .  '  Everywhere  tliick 
"  hedges  !  We  are  always  getting  fired  on,  we  can't  tell  from  where,'  cursed 
"  the  field-greys.     The  only  course  was  to  plaster  the  hedges  with  lead." 

^  They  belonged  to  the  16th  Uhlans,  the  corps  cavalry  of  the  Vll.  Corps, 
the  right  of  the  Second  Army  ("  Geschichte  des  Ulanenregiments  Nr.  16," 
p.  IOC). 


224     THE  RETREAT  OF  THE  I.  CORPS 

forthwith.  Simultaneously,  the  detachment  of  the  15th 
Hussars  and  Munster  Fusiliers  from  Bergues  came  into  Oisy 
and  took  over  the  guard  of  the  bridge  there.  But  it  was 
now  evident  that  the  gap  between  the  rear  guard  and  the 
corps  was  increasing  rapidly,  the  3rd  Brigade  being  by  this 
time  at  Guise,  the  2nd  Brigade  closing  in  upon  Hannapes, 
some  five  miles  in  rear,  whilst  the  1st,  at  another  five  miles 
distance,  was  still  in  position  at  Oisy.  The  3rd  Brigade 
was  therefore  halted  at  Guise,  and  the  1 /South  Wales 
Borderers  and  the  XXVI.  Brigade  R.F.A.  were  sent  back 
north  about  three  miles  to  Maison  Rouge,  where  at  3.30  p.m. 
they  took  up  a  position  to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  1st 
(Guards)  Brigade. 

By  that  hour  the  Coldstream  Guards,  Scots  Guards  and 
Black  Watch  had  begun  to  withdraw  ;  but  neither  the 
permanent  bridge  over  the  canal  near  Oisy  nor  the  tem- 
porary timber  structure  south  of  it  (made  by  the  23rd  Field 
Company  R.E.  by  felling  trees,  as  the  permanent  bridge 
was  in  full  view  of  the  high  ground  adjacent)  was  blown  up 
or  destroyed,  although  prepared  for  demolition,  as  at  the 
last  moment  the  instructions  to  do  so  were  cancelled  by 
triplicate  orders  sent  by  the  1st  Division,  1st  Brigade  and 
C.R.E.  Shortly  after  4  p.m.  the  rear-guard  cavalry  re- 
ported strong  hostile  columns  moving  south  upon  La  Vallee 
Mulatre,  immediately  to  the  west  of  Wassigny,  and  the 
three  battalions  of  the  1st  (Guards)  Brigade,  upon  reaching 
the  level  plateau  to  the  south  of  iStreux,  found  themselves 
threatened  from  the  north  and  west  by  a  German  cavalry 
division  ^  and  two  batteries.  There  was  a  good  deal  of 
firing  as  they  retired  over  the  next  three  miles  of  ground 
to  the  southward,  but  it  was  confined  chiefly  to  the  artillery; 
for  the  enemy  was  held  at  a  distance  without  much  diffi- 
culty by  the  British  batteries  at  Maison  Rouge.  Thus  the 
three  battalions  reached  Guise  with  trifling  loss,  the  5th 
Cavalry  Brigade  retiring  parallel  to  them  on  the  west.  At 
dusk  the  firing  died  down,  and  the  1st  Division  went  into 
bivouac,  the  3rd  Brigade  at  Bernot,  just  north  of  the  2nd 
Division  at  Mont  d'Origny,  at  9  p.m.,  and  the  2nd  and  1st 
Brigades  at  Hauteville  and  Jonqueuse,  north-east  and  east 
of  Bernot,  at  11  p.m.  The  2 /Welch  of  the  eastern  flank 
guard  also  reached  Bernot  at  this  hour  :  it  had  been  much 
impeded  by  refugees,  but,  beyond  a  few  rifle  shots,  had 
not  been  interfered  with  by  the  enemy.  The  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  also  came  into  the  same  area  for  the  night ;  the 
^  The  Guard  Cavalry  Division  of  Richthofen's  corps. 


^TREUX  225 

detachment  of  15th  Hussars  at  Oisy  marched  southward  27  Aug. 
on  to  Mont  d'Origny,  which  it  reached  at  midnight.  The  ^^^'*- 
men  were  greatly  fatigued  by  their  long  and  trying  day,  but 
they  had  been  little  pressed  by  the  Germans.  A  cavalry 
division  had,  indeed,  appeared  very  late  from  the  north- 
westward, but  no  infantry  had  threatened  them  from  the 
north,  and  the  reason  for  this  must  now  be  told. 

As  it  left  Fesmy  the  rearmost  company  of  the  Munsters  Map  12. 
had  become  engaged  with  German  infantry,  but  was  able 
to  disengage  and  rejoin  the  main  body  of  the  battalion, 
then,  about  5.45  p.m.,  half-way  to  l^treux,  and  continue  its 
retreat.  But  as  it  approached  the  village,  Germans  were 
seen  crossing  the  road  ahead,  and  fire  was  opened  not  only 
by  German  infantry  from  the  houses  on  the  northern  out- 
skirts, but  from  a  battery  not  more  than  fifteen  hundred 
yards  away  to  the  eastward.  Then  for  the  first  time  the 
Munsters  began  to  fall  fast.  One  of  the  two  guns  of  the 
section  of  the  118th  Battery  was  disabled,  a  single  shell 
destroying  the  whole  team.  The  other  gun  was  promptly 
brought  into  action  against  the  German  artillery,  but  over 
three  hundred  rounds  had  already  been  fired,  and  ammuni- 
tion was  very  nearly  exhausted.  Still  undaunted.  Major 
Charrier  pushed  forward  two  companies  to  clear  the  way 
through  I^treux  ;  but  the  Germans  had  installed  them- 
selves in  the  trenches  dug  during  the  forenoon  by  the  Black 
Watch,  and  also  occupied  a  house,  which  they  had  loop- 
holed,  west  of  the  road.  A  house  east  of  the  road  now 
burst  into  flames,  evidently  giving  the  signal  for  a  converg- 
ing attack  from  all  sides  upon  the  Munsters.  Major  Charrier 
ordered  the  remaining  gun  to  be  brought  up  to  demolish  the 
loopholed  house,  but  the  range  was  so  short  that  the  team 
and  detachment  were  instantly  shot  down.  A  third  com- 
pany, which  was  supporting  the  advance  of  the  two  com- 
panies, was  then  sent  to  make  an  attack  on  the  railway- 
cutting  to  the  east  of  Ltreux  station.  In  spite  of  enfilade 
fire,  both  of  infantry  and  artillery,  the  company  worked  up 
to  within  seventy  yards  of  the  cutting  and  charged.  The 
men  were  mowed  down  on  all  sides,  and  only  one  officer 
reached  the  hedge,  with  one  man,  who  was  then  killed  by 
his  side. 

Meanwhile  Major  Charrier  had  led  three  charges  against 
the  loopholed  house,  in  one  of  which  his  adjutant  actually 
reached  the  building,  and  fired  his  revolver  through  a  loop- 
hole, only  to  drop  stunned  by  a  blow  from  falling  brick- 
work.    These  gallant  efforts  were  all  in  vain.     It  was  now 

VOL.  I  Q 


226  THE  RETREAT  OF  THE  I.  CORPS 

7  P.M.  The  Germans  attaeked  from  south,  east  and  west, 
and,  though  temporarily  driven  back  at  one  point  by  a 
bayonet  charge,  continued  to  advance.  Major  Charrier 
was  shot  dead  alongside  the  deserted  gun  on  the  road,  and 
so  many  officers  had  by  this  time  fallen,  that  the  command 
devolved  upon  Lieutenant  E.  W,  Gower.  Collecting  such 
men  as  were  left,  he  formed  them  in  an  orchard,  facing  to  all 
points  of  the  compass,  and  continued  to  resist.  Gradually 
the  Germans  crowded  in  on  them  from  three  sides,  bringing 
fresh  machine  guns  into  position,  and  at  9.15  p.m.  they 
closed  in  also  from  the  north,  and  the  little  band  of  not  more 
than  two  hundred  and  fifty  of  all  ranks  with  ammunition 
almost  spent,  was  overpowered.  The  Munsters  had  been 
fighting  against  overwhelming  odds  for  nearly  twelve  hours, 
and  discovered  at  the  end  that  they  had  been  matched 
against  at  least  six  battalions  of  the  7Srd  and  77th  Reserve 
Regiments,  of  the  19th  Reserve  Division,  besides  three  of  the 
15th  Reserve  Regiment  of  the  2nd  Guard  Reserve  Division,  all 
forming  part  of  the  X.  Reserve  Corps.  Beyond  question, 
they  had  arrested  the  enemy's  pursuit  in  this  quarter  for 
fully  six  hours,  so  that  their  sacrifice  was  not  in  vain. 

The  situation  at  midnight  of  the  27th/28th  August  was  : 

Iketches  I.  Corps  (less  a  brigade).  On  the  high  ground  south- 

^  &  4.  wards    of    Guise    from    Long- 

^^^xJ^A  champs  to  Mont  d'Origny. 

5th  Cavalry  Brigade  and  4th         West  of  the  river  Oise  about 

(Guards)  Brigade.  Hauteville  and  Bernot. 

At  dawn  on  the  28th,  although  the  weather  was  still 
extremely  hot,  the  retreat  of  the  I.  Corps  on  La  Fere  was 
resumed  under  more  favourable  conditions  ;  for,  although 
two  German  divisions  were  reported  from  eight  to  twelve 
miles  north  of  St.  Quentin,  the  rumour  that  they  were 
actually  in  that  town  turned  out  to  be  false  ;  ^  moreover, 
the  French  XVIII.  Corps  was  now  in  touch  with  the  British 
on  the  east.  The  transport  had  begun  to  move  off  at  2  a.m. 
In  addition  to  a  rear  guard,  a  flank  guard  (under  Br.- 
General  Home)  consisting  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  5th 
Brigade  and  XXXVI.  Brigade  R.F.A.,  was  thrown  out  to 
the  west ;  and  the  rear  guard,  the  2nd  Brigade  with  a 
brigade  of  artillery  and  a  squadron,  held  the  heights  of  Mont 
d'Origny  during  the  passage  of  the  main  body  through 

1  On  the  night  of  the  27th/28th,  the  German  III.,  IV.  and  IV.  Reserve 
Corps  of  the  First  Army  were  G  miles  north-west  of  St.  Quentin  on  a  front 
facing  south  and  south-west. 


3  &  14. 


THE  RETREAT  CONTINUED  227 

Origny.  Nothing  was  seen  of  the  enemy  until  shortly  after  28  Aug. 
noon,  when  a  German  column  of  all  arms  appeared,  work-  ^^i^- 
ing  round  towards  the  right  rear  of  the  2nd  Brigade ; 
about  12.30  p.m.  its  guns  opened  fire,  but  with  little  effect.^ 
The  infantry  then  made  some  semblance  of  attack,  but 
was  easily  held  at  a  distance,  and  at  2  p.m.  the  last  of  the 
British  battalions  marched  off,  covered  by  infantry  of  Vala- 
bregue's  Reserve  divisions,  w^hich  occupied  the  position 
as  they  vacated  it.  The  I.  Corps  then  made  its  way, 
always  by  a  single  highroad,  towards  La  Fere.  The  march 
was  again  most  trying,  for  on  the  greater  part  of  the  w'ay 
battalions,  as  well  as  transport,  were  "  double-banked," 
and  a  swarm  of  refugees  added  to  the  congestion.  Thus, 
choked  with  dust,  on  an  airless,  oppressive  day,  the  I. 
Corps  at  last  reached  La  Fere,  crossed  the  Oise  southwards, 
and,  in  the  course  of  the  afternoon,  reached  its  billets  : — 
the  1st  Division  just  south  of  La  Fere  at  Fressancourt, 
Bertaucourt  and  St.  Gobain  ;  the  2nd  Division  further  to 
the  westward  at  Andelain,  Servais  and  Amigny. 

It  remained  to  be  seen  whether  the  German  cavalry 
would  press  into  the  gap  between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps, 
which  was  still  some  fifteen  miles  wide.  On  this  day  the 
3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  had  been  pushed  eastwards  by  Major- 
General  Allenby  to  gain  touch  with  the  I.  Corps, ^  Early  in 
the  forenoon  the  brigade  was  in  position  six  or  seven  miles 
south  of  St.  Quentin,  between  Cerizy  and  Essigny,  when  at 
10  A.M.  firing  was  heard  to  the  north,  and  this  was  followed 
shortly  afterwards  by  the  appearance  of  French  (84th 
Division)  Territorial  infantrymen  retiring  south  from  St. 
Quentin  through  Essigny.^  Learning  from  them  that  they 
had  been  surprised  by  German  cavalry  and  artillery  at 
Bellenglise,  Br. -General  Gough  withdrew  his  right,  the  4th 
Hussars,  southwards  from  near  Essigny  to  Benay,  to  cover 
their  retreat.  After  a  time,  his  patrols  reported  a  brigade 
of  Uhlans  to  be  advancing  on  Essigny  and  a  second  column 
of  all  arms  further  to  the  east,  moving  on  Cerizy.  About 
1  P.M.  an  advanced  party  of  Uhlans  was  caught  in  ambush 
by  the  4th  Hussars  about  Benay  and  dispersed  with  loss, 
their  killed  being  identified  as  of  the  Guard  Cavalry 
Division.     The  column  in  rear  of  them  thereupon  attempted 

^  From  Billow's  map,  the  column  would  appear  to  belong  to  the  A'. 
Corps  then,  with  the  rest  of  the  Second  Army,  moving  south-westward. 
Later  in  the  day,  that  Army  turned  south. 

^  See  page  219. 

*  The  bulk  of  the  division  retired  from  Cambrai  on  the  26th  via  Doullens, 
Amiens  and  Poix,  where  it  remained  until  the  11th  September. 


228  THE  RETREAT  OF  THE  I.  CORPS 

to  work  round  Br. -General  Gough's  eastern  flank,  but  was 
stopped  by  the  guns  of  E  Battery  R.H.A.  Thus  what 
seems  to  have  been  the  western  column  of  the  Guard  Cavalry 
Division  was  brought,  with  comparative  ease,  to  a  standstill. 

The  eastern  column  of  the  German  cavalry  was  more 
enterprising,  but  no  more  successful.  As  commander  of 
the  left  flank  guard  of  the  I.  Corps,  Br. -General  Home  had 
sent  the  whole  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  to  the  western 
bank  of  the  Oise,  and,  at  10.30  a.m..  Sir  Philip  Chetwode 
moved  it  to  Moy,  a  village  nearly  abreast  and  2  miles  east 
of  Cerizy,  where  he  halted  in  the  Oise  valley.  Leaving  the 
Scots  Greys  on  outpost,  with  the  20th  Hussars  in  close 
support,  on  the  high  ground  to  the  north-west  by  La 
Guinguette  Farm,  he  rested  the  remainder  of  the  brigade 
in  Moy.  About  noon  the  enemy  came  into  sight,  advancing 
south  along  the  main  road  from  St.  Quentin.  Upon  this  a 
squadron  of  the  Scots  Greys,  with  a  machine  gun,  was  sent 
to  occupy  a  copse  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  road  a  little  to 
the  north  of  La  Guinguette  Farm  (on  the  St.  Quentin — La 
Fere  road,  |-  mile  east  of  Cerizy),  with  one  troop  pushed  for- 
ward to  a  building  near  the  road  about  half  a  mile  ahead, 
and  a  section  of  J  Battery  R.H.A.  was  unlimbered  about 
half  a  mile  to  the  south-east  of  the  copse.  The  advanced 
troop  of  the  Greys  was  driven  back  by  superior  numbers, 
but  all  attempts  of  hostile  patrols  to  penetrate  to  La  Guin- 
guette were  foiled  by  the  fire  of  the  remainder  of  the 
squadron.  At  length,  at  2  p.m.,  two  squadrons  of  the  enemy 
advanced  in  close  formation  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  road, 
and,  being  fired  on  both  by  the  Greys  and  by  the  two  guns, 
there  dismounted.  Most  of  their  horses,  terrified  by  the 
bursting  shells,  galloped  away,  and  the  troopers,  after  dis- 
charging a  few  rounds,  also  turned  tail.  Br. -General  Chet- 
wode at  once  ordered  the  rest  of  J  Battery  into  action  and 
directed  the  12th  Lancers,  with  two  squadrons  of  the 
Greys  in  support,  to  move  round  the  enemy's  eastern  flank, 
and  the  20th  Hussars  to  advance  along  the  St.  Quentin 
road  and  turn  him  from  the  west.  The  dismounted  Ger- 
mans meanwhile  made  off  in  all  haste,  but  the  leading 
squadron,  C,  and  the  machine-gun  section  of  the  12th 
Lancers,  hurrying  northward,  caught  sight  of  a  body 
mounted  about  eight  hundred  yards  away  moving  in  close 
formation  towards  Moy.  Attacking  it  with  fire,  the  12th 
Lancers  compelled  the  Germans  to  dismount,  and  then 
stampeded  their  horses.     The  two  other  squadrons  and  J 


GENERAL  SITUATION  229 

Battery  now  coming  into  action,  C  squadron  mounted  and,  28  Aug. 
led  by  Lieut. -Colonel  F.  Wormald,  approaching  over  dead  ^^^*- 
ground,  got  within  fifty  yards  of  the  enemy  and  charged. 
Some  seventy  or  eighty  of  the  Germans,  who  proved  to  be  of 
the  2nd  Guard  Dragoon  Regiment,  were  speared.  The  12th 
Lancers  lost  one  officer  and  four  men  killed,  and  their 
lieutenant-colonel  and  four  men  wounded.  Further  pur- 
suit would  obviously  have  been  imprudent,  but  Br. -General 
Chetwode  remained  on  the  ground  long  enough  to  collect 
all  his  wounded — his  casualties  did  not  exceed  thirty — and 
to  ascertain  that  his  guns  had  played  such  havoc  with  the 
German  reserves  that  their  total  losses  might  fairly  be 
reckoned  at  three  hundred  killed  and  wounded.  Finally 
towards  evening,  he  and  Br. -General  Gough  fell  back  inde- 
pendently, the  former  to  the  left  of  the  I.  Corps,  to  Sinceny 
and  Autre ville,  the  latter  to  rejoin  the  Cavalry  Division, 
west  of  the  Oise  canal  at  Frieres  (6  miles  W.N.W.  of  La 
Fere)  and  Jussy  (just  north  of  Frieres),  Though  the  action 
of  Cerizy  had  been  comparatively  insignificant,  it  very 
effectually  damped  the  ardour  of  the  German  cavalry.^ 

General  Situation  on  Night  of  28th/29th  August 

When  all  movements  had  been  completed  on  the  night  Sketches 
of  the  28th/29th  August,  the  I.  Corps  was  south  of  the  ^a^s^ls 
Oise  and  of  La  Fere  ;   the  II,  Corps,  with  the  4th  Division,  &  15. 

1  The  Chaplain  of  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division,  Dr.  Vogel,  gives  the  Map  3. 
following  account  of  this  action.  After  relating  the  march  of  the  division 
on  the  28th  August  from  La  Groise  via  Wassigny  and  Bohain  to  Homblieres 
(3  miles  east  of  St.  Quentin),  which  it  reached  at  1  p.m.,  and  a  fight  around 
St.  Quentin  with  two  battalions  of  the  French  10th  Territorial  Infantry 
Regiment  (Kluck  says  that  his  III.  Corps  was  also  engaged  there)  which 
lasted  until  7  p.m.,  he  states  that  "  a  report  came  from  the  Dragoon 
"  Brigade  that  it  was  in  a  severe  action  east  of  Urvillers  [4  miles  north- 
"  west  of  INIoy  whence  the  British  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  had  moved], 
"  It  had  stumbled  on  what  appeared  to  be  weak  enemy  infantry  in 
"  the  wood  south-west  of  the  village,  and  had  attacked  with  three 
"  squadrons  dismounted,  intending  to  charge  with  the  other  three. 
"  It  turned  out,  however,  that  the  brigade  had  to  deal,  not  with  dis- 
"  organized  fugitives,  but  with  a  strong  detachment  of  the  intact  Franco- 
"  British  Army  which  had  advanced  from  La  Fere.  This  was  evident  from 
"  the  lively  infantry  fusillade  which  they  received  as  they  ajjproached 
"  mounted.  It  was  not  easy  to  get  clear,  but  with  the  assistance  of  a 
"  battery,  the  brigade  succeeded  in  withdrawing  behind  the  hill  north  of 
"  the  wood,  which  was  held  by  the  Guard  SchiUzenbataillon.  Some  British 
"  squadrons  also  which  had  deployed  to  charge  were  driven  back  by  our 
"  guns,  which  opened  at  just  the  right  moment.  The  3rd  Guard  TJhlans 
"  now  reinforced  the  troo])S  holding  the  hill.  A  troop  of  the  Dragoons, 
"  under  Lieutenant  Graf  Schwerin,  was  ridden  over  by  British  Hussars, 
"  The  wounded,  amongst  whom  were  men  with  six  or  seven  lance  wounds, 
"  and  several  bullet  wounds,  were  taken  prisoner  by  the  enemy." 


230  THE  RETREAT 

was  north  and  east  of  Noyon,  with  one  division  south  of 
the  Oise.  Thus,  the  two  wings  of  the  Army  were  still 
11  miles  apart,  the  gap  between  them  being  more  or 
less  covered  by  cavalry  on  a  curve  from  the  left  of  the 
I.  Corps  to  the  northern  end  of  the  II.  Corps.  On  the 
right,  the  British  were  6  miles  in  rear  of  the  left  of  the 
French  Fifth  Army,  but  on  the  left  in  touch  with  Sordet's 
cavalry. 
Map  3.        In  detail,  the  positions  of  the  British  were  : 

I.  Corps  : 

On  the  northern  edge  of  the  Forest  of  St.  Gobain  and 
Coucy,  from  Fressancourt  to  Amigny. 
5th  Cavalry  Brigade  :  Sinceny. 

II.  Corps  (including  4th  Division,  19th  Brigade  and  Cavalry 

Division)  : 
1st,  2nd  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  : 

At  Berlancourt,  Flavy  le  Meldeux — Plessis,  and  Jussy, 
respectively. 
3rd,  4th  (with  19th  Brigade)  and  5th  Divisions  : 

From   Freniches,    south   and   east,   through   Genvry   to 
Pontoise. 
4th  Cavalry  Brigade  : 

Cressy  (3  miles  south  of  Nesle)  north-west  of  the  4th 
Division. 

From  the  28th  onward  every  day  was  to  bring  the  two 
wings  closer  to  each  other.  Sir  John  French,  after  meeting 
some  of  the  5th  Division  on  the  march,  as  has  already 
been  told,  had  motored  on  to  La  Fere  to  see  the  I.  Corps, 
and  had  satisfied  himself  as  to  the  good  spirit  of  the  troops. 
He  had  also  received  the  promise  of  the  6th  Division  from 
England  about  the  middle  of  September  and  of  a  com- 
plete corps  from  India  at  a  later  date.  Other  important 
intelligence  also  reached  him.  The  troops  of  General 
d'Amade,  together  with  General  Sordet's  cavalry  corps, 
had  been  seen  in  action  between  Peronne  and  Bray  sur 
Somme,  but  by  evening  it  appeared  that  they  had  been 
pressed  back.  There  was  good  reason  to  believe  that  the 
German  Supreme  Command  judged  the  British  Army 
to  be  beaten  beyond  hope  of  speedy  recovery,  and  were 
intent  upon  extending  their  enveloping  movement  west- 
v/ards  until  they  could  sweep  all  opposing  forces  into 
their  net. 

On  the  28th  at  7.55  a.m.,  G.H.Q.  asked  for  air  recon- 
naissance of  the  area  Peronne — Montdidier — Compiegne 
"  to  locate  hostile  cavalry,  possibly  believed  to  be  about 


GENERAL  SITUATION  231 

"  Peronne  to-night,"  and  of  the  area  La  Fere — Peronne —  28  Aug. 
Guise,  to  locate  hostile  columns.  The  first-named  area  i^i'** 
actually  contained  only  a  few  French  troops,  and  nothing 
was  seen  of  the  German  //.  Cavalry  Corps  which,  late  in 
the  day,  reached  an  area  just  north-west  of  Peronne.  In 
the  second  area  a  number  of  columns  (now  known  to  be 
the  6th  and  7th  Divisions  of  the  First  Army  and  the  VII. 
and  X.  Reserve  Corps  of  the  Second  Army)  were  seen  and 
all  reported  moving  west  between  St.  Quentin  and  Le 
Catelet.  The  positions  of  the  I.  and  11.  Corps  were  also 
discovered  and  reported. 

General  Joffre,  during  his  visit  to  Sir  John  French  Sketch 
on  the  27th,  had  mentioned  the  preparation  of  a  counter-  ^^a. 
stroke  and  the  formation  of  a  new  Army  on  his  left.  The 
first  sign  of  it  was  seen  on  this  day  in  the  arrival  of  units 
between  Amiens  and  Ham.  This  Army,  the  Sixth,  under 
General  Maunoury,  was  to  be  formed  between  the  British 
and  General  d'Amade.  As  a  beginning,  the  VII.  Corps,i 
brought  from  Belfort,  was  detraining  at  Villers  Bretonncux, 
to  the  cast  of  Amiens,  and  a  Moroccan  brigade  was  already 
assembled  further  to  the  east.^  On  the  same  day  General 
Joffre — his  Western  Armies  being  on  the  general  line 
Reims — Amiens — ordered  the  French  Fifth  Army  to  take 
the  offensive  towards  St.  Quentin  along  a  line  parallel 
to  the  Oise  from  Guise  to  La  Fere,  hoping  at  best  to  strike 
an  effective  blow  which  might  check  the  German  advance, 
and  at  least  relieve  the  British  Army  from  all  further 
pressure. 

On  the  evening  of  the  28th  August,  two  corps  (XVIII. 
and  III.)  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  proceeding  westwards 
were  halted,  in  echelon,  south  of  the  Oise,  east  of  Guise, 
under  cover  of  the  X.  Corps,  the  I.  Corps  being  in  reserve 
to  the  south-east.  General  Lanrezac's  troops  were  thus 
in  touch  with,  but  in  advance  of,  the  British  Army.  During 
the  day.  General  Valabregue's  Reserve  divisions,  which 
since  the  night  of  the  25th/2Gth,  as  already  described,  had 
marched  so  close  to  the  I.  Corps  as  sometimes  to  share  its 
roads,  had  had  hard  fighting  at  the  Oise  bridges  near  Guise, 

^  14th  Division  and  63rd  Reserve  Division.  The  13th  Division  remained 
in  Alsace. 

^  According  to  Kluck,  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps  "  was  surprised  in  its 
"  billets  [near  Peronne]  by  the  French  Gist  and  62nd  Reserve  Divisions 
"  (of  d'Amade's  force)  on  the  morning  of  the  28th.  The  French,  however, 
"  were  driven  from  the  field  at  Manancourt  (7  miles  S.W.  of  Bapaume) 
"  by  parts  of  the  II.  Corps  and  IV.  Reserve  Corps.""  This  was  the  action 
of  Mesnil. 


232  THE  RETREAT 

had  lost  the  bridges  and  withdrawn  at  nightfall  to  the  left 
of  the  line  of  the  Fifth  Army.^ 

Sir  John  French  issued  orders  at  11.30  p.m.^  for  the 
British  to  halt  and  rest  on  the  29th,  but  with  the  condition 
that  all  formations  should  be  withdrawn  to  the  south  of 
a  line  practically  east  and  west  through  Nesle  and  Ham, 
connecting  with  the  French  at  Vendeuil.  During  the 
evening  of  the  28th,  Sir  Douglas  Haig  was  asked  by  General 
Lanrezac  to  co-operate  in  his  coming  offensive.  He 
agreed  to  do  so,  but,  on  informing  G.H.Q.  of  the  request,  he 
received  instructions  that  he  was  not  to  take  part.  The 
Field-Marshal,  who  seems  to  have  continued  to  take  a 
gloomy  view  of  the  state  of  his  troops,  was  anxious  to 
withdraw  them  from  the  line  of  battle  for  eight  or  ten  days 
to  some  locality  where  they  might  rest  and  be  re-equipped, 
and  he  accordingly  arranged  with  General  Joffre  that  they 
should  fall  back  to  a  line  a  little  to  the  south  of  the  Aisne 
between  Soissons  and  Compiegne.  The  situation  was 
complicated  by  the  fact  that  Kluck's  sweep  westwards  had 
compelled  the  evacuation  of  the  British  advanced  base  at 
Amiens.  On  this  day  the  suggestion  was  first  made  that 
St.  Nazaire,  at  the  mouth  of  the  Loire,  should  take  the  place 
of  Havre  as  the  principal  sea  base  of  the  British  force  in 
France. 

It  may  be  mentioned  here  that,  with  the  view  of  creat- 
ing a  diversion  on  the  western  flank  to  assist  the  British 
Expeditionary  Force  and  of  supporting  the  Belgians,  one 
battalion  of  R.  Marine  Artillery  and  three  battalions  of 
R.  Marine  Light  Infantry,  under  command  of  Br. -General 
Sir  George  Aston,  were  landed  at  Ostend  on  the  27th 
and  28th  August.  They  were  re-embarked  on  the  31  st.^ 
News  of  this  landing  appears  to  have  reached  the  German 
Supreme  Command  on  the  30th.* 

1  See  Note  II.  "  The  Battle  of  Guise,"  at  end  of  Chapter  XI. 

2  Ap])endix  18. 

3  For  details  see  Sir  Julian  Corbett's  "  Naval  Operations,"  i.  pp.  92-4 
and  12;3-4.  The  so-called  brigade  was  without  a  signal  section  or  office 
staff  ;  the  battalions  were  in  blue  serge,  had  no  horses,  no  transport,  not 
even  Ist-line  ;  no  machine  guns  ;  and  the  rifle  ammunition  was  not 
charger-loaded. 

*  With  regard  to  it  the  head  of  the  Operations  Branch  of  the  German 
General  Staff  has  written  : — 

"  At  this  time  there  was,  as  may  be  imagined,  no  lack  of  alarming 
"  reports  at  General  Headquarters.  Ostend  and  Antwerp  took  a  prominent 
"  part  in  them.  One  day  countless  British  troops  were  said  to  have  landed 
"  at  Ostend  and  to  be  marching  on  Antwerp  ;  on  another  that  there  were 
"  about  to  be  great  sorties  from  Antwerp.  Even  landings  of  Russian 
"  troops,  80,000  men,  at  Ostend  were  mentioned.     At  Ostend  a  great 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  233 


NOTE  I 

Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies 

AFTER   Le    CaTEAU 

What  became  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies  after  the  27  Aug. 
battle  of  Le  Cateau  will  now  be  related.  1914. 

On  the  26th  August,  Biilow  ^  had  issued  orders  for  the  continu-  Sketch  1 
ation  of  the  pursuit  in  a  "  sharp  south-westerly  direction  ...  as  Map  3. 
"  sullicient  elbow  room  had  to  be  obtained  for  the  great  wheel  of  the 
"  Third,  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies  round  Verdun."  "  After  con- 
"  tinuous  fighting  with  French  rear  guards,"  the  /.  Cavalry  Corps 
and  three  and  a  half  corps  of  the  Second  Army  ^  reached  an  approxi- 
mate S.E.  and  N.W.  line  a  little  in  front  of  Avesnes,  the  cavalry 
and  X.  Reserve  Corps  moving  to  Marbaix,  where  they  had  the  fight, 
already  related,^  with  the  Connaught  Rangers  ;  but  the  Second 
Army  took  no  part  in  the  battle  of  Le  Cateau. 

On  the  27th,  after  Le  Cateau,  Kluck,  making  a  late  start,  in  the 
belief  that  the  British  "  would  endeavour  to  escape  south-westwards 
"  in  order  not  to  lose  communication  with  their  ports  "  (G.O.A., 
i.  p.  528),  moved  his  troops  about  twelve  miles  in  a  south-westerly 
direction  : — III.  Corps  via  Maretz  to  Nauroy,  IV.  Corps  to  Belli- 
court — Vendhuille,  //.  Corps,  with  II.  Cavalry  Corps  in  front,  to 
Sailly  Saillisel — Fins  (5  miles  south-east  of  Bapaume)  ;  the  IV. 
Reserve  Corps  followed  between  the  II.  and  IV.  Corps  to  Roisel — 
— Lieramont.  The  IX.  Corps  (less  the  17th  Division)  marched 
from  Maubeuge  \ia  Le  Cateau  some  five  hours  later  than  the  rest 
of  the  Army,  and  billeted  in  and  about  Busigny.  Except  for  en- 
counters with  the  Gordons  and  parties  of  stragglers  on  the  night  of 
the  26th/27th,  he  had  no  information  of  the  whereabouts  of  the 
British  beyond  "that  they  were  in  full  retreat"  (G.O.A.,  i.  p.  529). 
Even  on  the  night  of  the  27th  he  was  "  by  no  means  clear  of  the 
"  direction  taken  by  the  British  in  their  retreat.  .  .  .  Aviators 
"  during  the  night  of  the  26th /27th  had  reported  the  retreat  of 
"  strong  enemy  columns  from  Landrecies  on  Guise  [I.  Corps]  and 
"  from  Avesnes  on  Vervins  [French] ;  it  was  probable  that  the  enemy 
"  in  his  further  retreat  would  try  to  turn  more  to  the  west  or  south- 
"  west.  The  retreat  to  the  west  was,  however,  denied  to  him  on 
"  the  evening  of  the  27th  by  the  //.  Corps.''  (G.O.A.,  i.  p.  531 .)  There 
is  no  mention  of  any  air  reports  on  the  27th.  The  only  fighting 
that  Kluck  records  is  isolated  encounters  of  the  //.  Corps  and 
cavalry  with  General  d'Amade's  forces  on  the  British  left,  at  Heude- 
court  and  westwards  ;    the  identifications  obtained  thereby  added  to 

"  entrenched  camp  for  the  English  was  in  preparation.  [Aston's  men  did 
"  commence  digging.]  .  .  .  Though,  of  course,  the  security  of  the  rear  and 
"  right  flank  of  the  army  required  constant  attention,  such,  and  even  worse 
"  information,  could  not  stop  the  advance  of  the  troops."    (Tappen,  p.  22.) 

1  Bulow,  p.  29. 

2  The  13tli  Division  was  left  behind  at  Maubeuge,  where  General  von 
Zwehl  took  charge  of  the  investment  with  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps  (less 
13th  Reserve  Division  on  march  from  Namur),  and  the  17lh  Division  of 
the  IX.  Corps.  The  13th  Division  rejoined  the  Second  Army  in  the  nick 
of  time  to  take  part  in  the  battle  of  Guise. 

*  See  page  203. 


234  THE  RETREAT 

the  obscurity  of  the  situation.  Regardless  of  any  danger  threatening 
his  right  flank,  he  determined  to  push  on  at  all  speed  for  the  passages 
of  the  Somme. 

The  Second  Army  (still  without  the  13th  Division)  reached  a  S.E. 
and  N.W.  line  through  fitreux,  where,  as  already  narrated,  the  X. 
Reserve  Corps,  on  its  western  flank,  ran  into  the  Munster  Fusiliers.^ 
The  German  Official  Account  (i.  p.  532)  speaks  of  the  27th  August 
as  being  "  a  day  of  pure  marching,  in  general,  without  contact  with 
"  the  enemy." 

During  the  day,  Kluck  was  released  from  Billow's  command  ; 
he  was  therefore  free  to  make  a  wide  turning  movement  to  the  west, 
instead  of  being  tied  to  the  Second  Army  in  order  to  assist  it  to  tactical 
successes. 

On  the  28th,  therefore,  the  First  Army  sent  on  cavalry  and  field 
batteries  in  pursuit  of  d'Amade's  forces,  and  there  was  rear-guard 
fighting  ;  the  remainder  of  the  Army  moved  south-west  across  the 
British  front.  The  III.  Corps  got  no  further  than  Bellenglise — 
outskirts  of  St.  Quentin,  owing  to  the  opposition  met  with  from 
French  Territorials,  British  cavalry  and  stragglers  ;  the  heads  of 
the  three  corps  on  the  right  just  reached  the  Somme,  on  a  front  six 
miles  on  either  side  of  Peronne  ;  the  IX.  Corps  was  still  a  march 
behind  on  the  left. 

In  the  Second  Army,  Biilow  ordered  the  Guard  and  X.  Corps  on 
his  left  (east)  to  stand  fast  and  reconnoitre,  since  the  French  Fifth 
Army  was  on  their  front  behind  the  Oise,  whilst  his  right  swung 
round  in  touch  with  the  First  Army.  "  I.  Cavalry  Corps,''  he 
ordered,  "  will  endeavour  to  attack  the  British  in  the  rear,  moving 
"  round  the  south  of  St.  Quentin  "  ;  the  VII.  Corps  (less  13th  Divi- 
sion) was  to  march  early  to  St.  Quentin  ;  the  X.  Reserve  Corps  was 
to  make  a  short  march  of  about  six  miles  south-west  from  Etreux. 
Except  for  the  cavalry  fight  at  Cerizy  ^  and  the  right  of  the  X. 
Reserve  Corps  brushing  against  the  rear  guard  at  Mont  d'Origny,^ 
all  touch  with  the  British  was  lost.  Biilow  does  not  say  what  places 
the  above-named  corps  reached  by  evening,  but  he  records  that  in 
the  afternoon  of  the  28th  he  received  a  message  from  Kluck  asking 
him  to  deal  with  the  disorganized  English  forces,  which  appeared  to 
be  falling  back  on  La  Fere.  He  therefore  ordered  the  X.  Reserve  and 
VII.  Corps  (less  13th  Division)  to  push  on  westwards,  towards  the 
passages  of  the  Somme  and  the  Crozat  canal  near  Ham  and  St. 
Simon  (4  miles  east  of  Ham),  which  they  reached  on  the  29th. 

Thus  the  B.E.F.,  though  at  first  foflowed  by  the  right  of  the 
Second  Army  and  the  left  of  the  First,  escaped  from  pressure  on  the 
28th  owing  to  the  gap  between  these  Armies  steadily  increasing  to 
some  fourteen  miles. 

During  the  evening  of  the  28th  an  officer  from  O.H.L.  brought 
to  Biilow  and  Kluck  "  General  Directions  for  the  Further  Conduct  of 
"  Operations."  *  These  directions  foreshadowed  a  wheel  inwards  of 
the  two  great  wings  of  the  German  forces,  the  right  wing  in  accord- 
ance with  the  original  plan,  and  the  left  wing  by  an  advance  through 
the  French  eastern  fortresses,  so  as  to  bring  about  a  surrender  of 
the  French  Armies  in  the  open  field.  They  seem  of  sufficient  im- 
portance to  translate  in  full,  and  are  as  follows  : — 

"  It  is  most  important  by  a  rapid  march  of  the  German  forces  on 

1  See  page  221.  "  See  page  228.  »  See  page  226. 

4  G.O.A.,  iii.  pp.  7-10. 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  235 

Paris  to  prevent  the  French  Army  from  coming  to  rest,  to  stop  28  Aug. 
the  assembly  of  fresh  bodies  of  troops,  and  to  take  from  the  country    1914. 
as  much  as  possible  of  its  means  of  defence. 

"  Belgium  is  placed  under  a  German  Governor- General  and  a 
German  Administration.  It  is  to  serve  as  the  hinterland  for  supply 
of  the  First,  Second  and  Third  Armies,  and  thus  shorten  the  lines 
of  communication  of  the  German  right  wing. 

"  His  Majesty  orders  the  advance  of  the  German  forces  in  the 
direction  of  Paris. 

"  The  First  Army,  with  the  II.  Cavalry  Corps  attached,  will 
march  west  of  the  Oise  towards  the  lower  Seine.  It  must  be  pre- 
pared to  co-operate  in  the  fighting  of  the  Second  Army.  It  will 
also  be  responsible  for  the  protection  of  the  right  flank  of  the  forces, 
and  will  take  steps  to  prevent  the  enemy  from  assembling  fresh 
bodies  of  troops  in  its  zone  of  operation.  The  detachments 
(///.  Reserve  and  IX.  Reserve  Corps)  left  behind  for  the  investment 
of  Antwerp  are  placed  immediately  under  O.H.L.  The  IV. 
Reserve  Corps  is  again  put  at  the  disposal  of  the  First  Army. 

"  The  Second  Army,  with  the  /.  Cavalry  Corps  attached,  will 
advance  \ia  the  line  La  Fere — Laon  on  Paris.  It  will  also  invest 
and  capture  Maubeuge,  and  later  La  Fere  ;  also  Laon  in  co- 
operation with  the  Third  Army.  The  /.  Cavalry  Corps  will  recon- 
noitre on  the  fronts  of  both  the  Second  and  Third  Armies,  and  will 
send  any  information  obtained  to  the  Third  Army. 

"  The  Third  Army  will  continue  its  march  via  the  line  Laon — 
Guignicourt,  westof  Neufchatel,  on  Chateau  Thierry.  Hirson  will 
be  captured,  also  Laon  with  Fort  Conde  in  co-operation  with 
the  Second  Army.  The  I.  Cavalry  Corps,  on  the  front  of  the 
Second  and  Third  Armies,  will  provide  the  Third  Army  with  in- 
formation. 

"  The  Fourth  Army  will  march  via  Reims  on  Epernay.  The 
IV.  Cavalry  Corps,  attached  to  the  Fifth  Army,  will  also  send 
reports  to  the  Fourth  Army.  Any  siege  material  required  for  the 
capture  of  Reims  will  be  provided.  The  VI.  Corps  is  transferred 
to  the  Fifth  Army. 

"  The  Fifth  Army,  to  which  the  VI.  Corps  is  transferred,  will 
advance  against  the  line  Chalons  sur  Marne— Vitry  le  Francois. 
It  will  be  responsible  for  the  flank  protection  of  the  forces,  by 
echelonning  back  its  left  wing,  until  the  Sixth  Army  can  take 
over  this  task  west  of  the  Meuse.  The  IV.  Cavalry  Corps  remains 
attached  to  the  Fifth  Army,  but  will  reconnoitre  on  the  fronts  of 
the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies,  and  send  reports  to  the  Fourth  Army. 
Verdun  will  be  invested.  Besides  the  five  Landwehr  brigades  from 
the  Nied  position,  the  10th  and  8th  Ersatz  Divisions  are  also 
assigned  to  it,  as  soon  as  they  can  be  spared  by  the  Sixth  Army. 

"  The  Sixth  Army,  with  the  Seventh  Army  and  the  III.  Cavalry 
Corps,  in  touch  with  Metz,  has  first  to  prevent  an  advance  of  the 
enemy  into  Lorraine  and  Upper  Alsace.  The  fortress  of  Metz  is 
placed  under  the  Sixth  Army.  If  the  enemy  retires,  the  Sixth 
Army,  with  the  ///.  Cavalry  Corps,  will  cross  the  Moselle  between 
Toul  and  Epinal,  and  take  the  general  direction  of  Neufchateau. 
This  Army  will  then  be  responsible  for  the  protection  of  the  left 
flank  of  tiie  forces.  Nancy  and  Toul  are  to  be  invested  ;  Epinal 
is  to  be  masked  with  sufficient  troops.  In  this  case  the  Sixth  Army 
will  be  reinforced  by  portions  of  the  Seventh  Army  {XIV.  and  XV. 


236  THE  RETREAT 

"  Corps  and  one  Ersatz  division)  ;  but  the  10th  and  8th  Ersatz 
"  Divisions  will  be  handed  over  to  tlie  Fifth  Army.  The  Seventh 
"  Army  will  then  become  independent. 

"  The  Seventh  Army  will  at  first  remain  under  the  Sixth  Army. 
"  If  the  latter  crosses  the  IMoselle,  the  Seventh  Army  will  become 
"  independent.  The  fortress  of  Strasbourg  and  the  Upper  Rhine 
"  fortifications,  with  the  troops  in  them,  will  remain  under  it.  The 
"  Seventh  Army  will  prevent  an  enemy  break-through  between  Epinal 
"  and  the  Swiss  frontier.  It  is  recommended  that  strong  defences 
"  should  be  constructed  opposite  Epinal,  and  from  there  to  the 
"  mountains,  also  in  the  Rhine  valley  in  connection  with  Neubrei- 
"  sach,  and  that  the  main  strength  should  be  kept  behind  the  right 
"  wing.  The  XIV.  and  XV.  Corps,  as  well  as  one  of  the  Ersatz 
"  divisions,  will  then  be  transferred  to  the  Sixth  Army. 

[The  lines  of  demarcation  between  the  Armies  follow.] 

"  All  Armies  will  mutually  co-operate  with  one  another,  and 
"  support  each  other  in  fighting  for  the  various  lines  which  are  to 
"  be  gained.  The  strong  resistance  which  may  be  expected  on  the 
"  Aisne  and,  later,  on  the  Marne,  may  necessitate  a  wheel  of  the 
"  Armies  from  a  south-westerly  to  a  southerly  direction. 

"  A  rapid  advance  is  urgently  desirable  in  order  to  leave  the 
"  French  no  time  to  re-organize  and  offer  serious  resistance.  The 
"  Armies  will  therefore  report  when  they  can  begin  the  advance. 
"  The  Armies  on  the  wings  are  recommended  to  attach  infantry, 
"  in  addition  to  Jdger  battalions,  to  their  cavalry  divisions  as 
"  required,  in  order  to  break  any  resistance  of  franc-tireurs  and 
"  civilian  inhabitants  as  quickly  as  possible.  Only  by  severe 
"  measures  against  the  population  can  a  national  rising  be  nipped 
"  in  the  bud." 

A  completely  erroneous  appreciation  of  the  situation  appears 
to  have  been  current  at  O.H.L.  at  this  time.  It  furnishes  a  clue  to 
the  apparently  haphazard  way  in  which  the  German  Armies  moved, 
and  is  so  extraordinary  that  it  is  best,  perhaps,  to  quote  the  words 
of  the  Chief  of  the  Operations  Section  ^ : — 

"  The  French,  as  expected,  had  offered  battle  to  prevent  us 
"  from  penetrating  into  France.  The  highly  favourable  reports  that 
"  came  in  daily,  as  late  as  the  25th  August,  in  conjunction  with  the 
"  great  victory  of  the  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  in  Lorraine  on  the 
"  20th  and  25th,  aroused  in  Great  Headquarters  the  belief  that 
"  the  great  decisive  battle  in  the  West  had  been  fought  and  con- 
"  eluded  in  our  favour.  Under  the  impression  that  there  had  been 
"  a  '  decisive  victory,'  the  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  resolved  on  the 
"  25th,  in  spite  of  arguments  to  the  contrary,  to  detach  forces  to  the 
"  East.  He  believed  the  moment  had  come  when,  in  conformity 
"  with  the  great  operations  plan,  a  decisive  victory  in  the  West 
"  having  been  won,  considerable  forces  could  be  sent  to  the  East  to 
"  obtain  a  decision  there  also.  For  this  purpose  six  corps  were 
"  detailed,  among  them  the  XI.  Corps  and  Guard  Reserve  Corps 
"  (besieging  Namur).  .  .  .  Only  after  the  whole  extent  of  the  victory 
"  at  Tannenberg  became  known  was  the  order  cancelled  as  regards 
"  the  four  corps  to  be  taken  from  the  centre  and  left  ;  one  of  these, 
"  the  V.  Corps  of  the  Fifth  Army,  was  actually  awaiting  entrainment 
"  at  Thionville.     On  the  subsequent  days  further  reports  of  suc- 

1  Tappen,  pp.  18,  19. 


s 


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>. 
O 


THE  FRENCH  FIFTH  ARMY  237 

"  cesses  came  in.     After  O.H.L.  had  issued  instructions  on  the  26th  28  Aug. 

"  and  27th  for  the  continuation  of  the  operations  on  the  basis  that    1914, 

"  great  victories  had  been  gained,  the  First  Army  reported  on  the 

"  28th  August  that  it  had  defeated  the  British  Army,  and  that  it 

"  was  already  half-way  between  the  Belgian  frontier  and  Paris.  .  .  . 

"  The  idea  that  the  French  retirement  was  according  to  plan  was 

"  only  expressed  by  a  few  solitary  individuals." 

Tills  statement  may  be  partly  designed  to  throw  some  of  the 
blame  on  the  Army  commanders,  for  forwarding  misleading  reports 
of  victories,  but  the  despatch  of  the  two  army  corps  to  Russia  and 
the  bringing  of  the  V.  Corps  out  of  the  line  are  established  facts. 
There  was  certainly  good  reason  for  sending  reinforcements  to  the 
Eastern  theatre.  On  the  19th/20th  the  German  Eighth  Army  had 
fought  the  unsuccessful  battle  of  Gumbinnen,  the  Russians  had 
invaded  East  Prussia,  and,  although  Generals  von  Hindenburg  and 
Ludendorff  had  been  sent  to  supersede  Generals  von  Prittwitz  and 
von  Waldersee  and  retrieve  the  situation,  the  result  of  the  battle  of 
Tannenberg,  begun  on  the  23rd  August,  was  still  in  doubt.  In  both 
the  Austrian  theatres  Germany's  Ally  had  been  defeated.  In  the 
southern,  the  invasion  of  Serbia  had  failed,  and  by  the  25th  August 
all  Austrian  forces  had  recrossed  the  frontier,  beaten.  In  the 
Galician  theatre,  although  the  opening  fighting  had  seemed  to  be  in 
Austria's  favour,  the  First  Battle  of  Lemberg,  begun  on  the  26th, 
was  going  against  her,  largely  owing  to  her  Second  Army,  recalled 
from  Serbia,  not  having  reached  the  field.  If  she  were  not  to  be 
overwhelmed,  she  would  require  substantial  help  before  the  date  6th 
to  10th  September  (36th  to  40th  day  of  mobilization),  for  which  it 
had  been  promised  by  the  German  Chief  of  the  General  Staff. 


NOTE  II 

Movements  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  from 
Charleroi  to  Guise 

The  general  line  of  retirement  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  after  Map  3. 
Charleroi  was  south-westwards,  its  orders  being  to  reach  the  line 
Laon — La  Fere.  The  movements  of  General  Valabregue's  two 
Reserve  divisions  in  contact  with  the  British  I.  Corps  have  been 
mentioned.  The  XVIII.  Corps  (35th,  26th  and  38th  (African) 
Divisions),  on  their  right,  retired  via  Avesnes,  and  crossed  the  Oise 
at  Romery  (4  miles  east  of  Guise).  The  III.  Corps,  next  on  the 
right  (5th,  6th  and  37th  (African)  Divisions),  followed  in  echelon 
behind  the  XVIII.  ;  it  passed  the  French  frontier  on  the  25th  and 
marched  through  Fourmies  (10  miles  south-east  of  Avesnes),  and 
crossed  the  Oise  between  Etreaupont  and  Ohis.  The  X.  Corps 
marched  via  La  Capelle  to  Hirson,  first  south  and  then  south-east, 
to  keep  in  touch  with  the  Fourth  Army,  and  thence  to  Vervins. 
The  I.  Corps,  from  the  right  of  the  Army,  after  reaching  Tavaux 
(7  miles  south  of  Vervins),  was  brought  north-west  into  second  line 
between  the  III.  and  X.  Corps. 

Thus,  by  the  evening  of  the  28th  August,  the  Fifth  Army  was 
drawn  up  facing  north  and  north-west  behind  the  Oise  from  Ver\ans 
practically  to  La  Fere,  in  the  following  order  :  4th  Cavalry  Division, 
51st  Reserve  Division,  X.  Corps,  III.  Corps,  XVIII.  Corps,  Vala- 


238  BRITISH  LOSSES 

bregue's  Reserve  divisions,  with  the  I.  Corps  coming  up  into  second 
line.  The  German  Second  Army  was  in  contact  with  the  whole 
front  of  the  Fifth  Army,  and  had  secured  a  bridgehead  at  Guise. 


NOTE  III 

General  Joffre's  Congratulatory  Telegram 

Dated  27ih  August  1914. 

Commandant  en  Chef  des  Armees  Frangaises  a  Commandant 
en  Chef  Armee  Anglaise  Noyon  Oise.     No.  2425. 

L'Armee  anglaise  en  n'hesitant  pas  a  s'engager  tout  entiere 
contre  des  forces  tres  superieures  en  nombre  a  puissamment  con- 
tribue  a  assurer  la  securite  du  flanc  gauche  de  I'Armee  Fran9aise. 
Elle  I'a  fait  avec  un  devouement,  une  energie  et  une  perseverance 
auxquels  je  tiens  des  maintenant  a  rendre  hommage  et  qui  se  re- 
trouveront  demain  pour  assurer  le  triomphe  final  de  la  cause  com- 
mune. L'Armee  Frangaise  n'oubliera  pas  le  service  rendu  ;  animee 
du  meme  esprit  de  sacrifice  et  de  la  meme  volonte  de  vaincre  que 
I'Armee  Anglaise,  elle  lui  aflirmera  sa  reconnaissance,  dans  les 
prochains  combats.  Joffre. 

NOTE  IV 

British  Losses  23rd  to  27th  August  1914 
(Excluding  Missing  who  returned  to  their  Units) 

23rd.    24th.     25th.    26th.    27th. 
(Mons.)  (Le  Cateau.) 

Cavalry  Division  .  .  6         252         123  15  14 

I.  Corps  : 

1st  Division     .  .  9  42  32  61         826 

2nd  Division     .  .  35  59         230         344  48 

II.  Corps  : 

3rd  Division      .          .  1,185  557  357  1,796  50 

5th  Division      .           .  386  1,656  62  2,631  76 

4th  Division      .           .  .  .  . .  65  3,158  58 

19th  Infantry  Brigade  17  40  36  477  108 


1,638      2,606  905      8,482      1,180 

The  British  losses  at  Waterloo  were  8,458  (Wellington  Despatches, 
vol.  xii.). 


SKETCH  9. 


OPERATIONS,  28  AUGUST  -  5  SEPTEMBER,  1914 

Retreat  of  B.E.F. 
Fositions  at  night  are  shown  by  datPS. 


A.MIENS 


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sne-Gomte-/      ^,^"^'''^^"^».^   ^ 
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MILES   5432  10 


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20  MILES 


Ordyj&jiee  Survey,   1920. 


CHAPTER  XI 

THE  RETREAT  {continued) 

29TH-31ST    AUGUST 
(Sketches  A,  8,  9,  10  «fe  11  ;   Maps  3,  4,  14,  16,  17  &  18) 

29th  August 

Except  for  some  minor  adjustments  to  secure  the  best  Sketches 
ground  possible,  in  the  course  of  which  the  4th  Division  ^{^ ^^^ 
had  moved  back  a  Httle  to  the  area  Bussy — Sermaize — ^^^^^ 
Chevilly,  the  morning  of  the  29th  August  found  the  B.E.F. 
halted  in  its  over-night  positions  on  the  Oise.     To  the  right 
front  of  the  British  was  the  French  Fifth  Army,  and  to 
their   left   front   the   newly-formed   French    Sixth   Army, 
General  Maunoury's   headquarters   being  at  Montdidier.^ 
In  pursuance  of  General  Joffre's  directions,  the  Fifth  Army 
began  the  battle  of  Guise  by  attacking  towards  St.  Quentin 
against  the  German  Second  Army ;  ^   at  the  same  time  the 
outer  wing  of  the  German  First  Army,   swinging  south- 
westwards,  was  engaged  with  General  Maunoury's  Army, 
and  there  was  fighting  at  Proyart  (10  miles  south-west  of 
Peronne)  and  Rosieres  (6  miles  south  of  Proyart). 

For  the  British,  except  the  cavalry,  much  of  the  29th 
was  a  day  of  rest,  devoted  to  repairing  the  wear  and  tear 
of  the  strenuous  days  through  which  they  had  passed. 

The  enemy  was  by  no  means  wholly  inactive  on  the 
British  front.  At  5  a.m.  the  16th  Lancers  were  driven  out 
of  Jussy  (10  miles  south  of  St.  Quentin)  on  the  Crozat  canal 

^  At  this  time,  General  Maunoury's  Army  consisted  of  the  VII.  Corps 
(14th  Division  and  63rd  Reserve  Division),  55th  Reserve  Division  (just 
arrived  from  the  Army  of  Lorraine),  the  Gist  and  G2nd  Reserve  Divisions, 
a  Moroccan  infantry  ^brigade,  two  battahons  of  Chasseurs  Alpins  and  a 
Provisional  Cavalry  Division  (General  Cornulier-Luciniere)  formed  from 
Sordet's  cavalry  corps,  the  rest  of  this  corps  having  gone  back  to  Versailles 
to  refit.  The  5Gth  Reserve  Division  arrived  during  the  evening  of  the 
29th  August. 

«  See  Note  II.  "  The  Battle  of  Guise,"  at  end  of  Chapter. 

239 


240  THE  RETREAT 

by  Jdger  and  machine  guns/  but  they  held  their  own  until 
the  bridge  over  the  canal  had  been  destroyed,  when  they 
and  the  rest  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  fell  back  slowly 
to  Chauny  (6|  miles  W.S.W.  of  La  Fere).  Before  8  a.m. 
reports  came  in  that  German  infantry  and  guns  were 
crossing  the  Somme  at  Pargny  and  Bethencourt  well  away 
to  the  north, ^  and  soon  after  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade 
lying  north  of  Smith-Dorrien's  divisions  was  engaged  with  a 
force  of  all  arms  ^  advancing  from  the  direction  of  Ham. 
The  brigade  retired  with  deliberation  to  Guiscard,  which  it 
reached  at  11  a.m.,  and  thence  went  southward.  To  sup- 
port it,  the  9th  Brigade  of  the  3rd  Division  took  position 
at  Crissolles  (3  miles  north  of  Noyon),  and  the  4th  Division 
sent  a  battalion  to  Muirancourt  (2  miles  north  of  Crissolles). 
By  1  P.M.  it  was  apparent  that  nothing  serious  was  going 
forward  :  the  general  trend  of  Kluck's  Army  was  still 
decidedly  to  the  west  of  south,  clear  of  the  British,  and 
Billow's  was  engaged  with  the  French.  At  4.15  p.m.,  in 
accordance  with  G.H.Q.  instructions,  General  Smith- 
Dorrien  issued  orders  for  a  short  withdrawal  of  his  force, 
to  bring  the  whole  of  it  south  of  the  Oise  and  nearer  to  the 
I.  Corps.  At  6  p.]^.  the  troops  began  their  march  : — the 
3rd  Division  to  Cuts,  the  5th  to  Carlepont,  and  the  4th  to 
the  north  of  Carlepont,  leaving  a  rear  guard  of  the  10th 
Brigade  north  of  the  Oise.  The  main  bodies  of  all  three 
divisions  reached  their  destinations  between  9  p.m.  and 
midnight.  The  1st  and  2nd  Cavalry  Brigades  followed 
them.  Thus  by  midnight  practically  the  whole  of  General 
Smith-Dorrien's  force,  except  the  rear  guard,  had  crossed 
to  the  south  of  the  Oise,  and  during  the  night  the  engineers 
of  the  5th  Division  blew  up  behind  it  the  bridges  over  the 
Oise  and  Oise  canal.  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  on  its  right 
front,  billeted  for  the  night  at  Chauny,  and  the  4th  Cavalry 
Brigade  five  miles  west  of  Noyon,  at  Dives.  This  south- 
eastward movement  of  the  II.  Corps  reduced  the  gap 
between  it  and  the  I.  Corps  to  seven  miles. 

Throughout  this  day  the  I.  Corps  enjoyed  undisturbed 
repose.  During  the  afternoon  General  Joffre  visited  Sir 
John  French  at  Compiegne,  whither  G.H.Q.  had  moved 
from  Noyon  on  the  28th.     In  view  of  the  general  situation, 

^  The  5th  Cavalry  Division  is  said  to  have  driven  off  a  British  brigade 
supported  by  artillery  (Poseck,  p.  74). 

^  The  18th  Division  according  to  Kluck's  map. 

3  This  according  to  Vogel  was  part  of  the  Guard  Cavalry  Division  of 
the  /.  Cavalry  Corps  which  was  filling  the  gap  between  the  First  and 
Second  Armies. 


GENERAL  SITUATION  241 

he  was  most  anxious  that  the  B.E.F.  should  remain  in  Hne  29  Aug. 
with  the  French  Armies  on  either  flank,  so  that  he  could    ^^^^• 
hold  the  Reims — Amiens  line,  which  passed  through  La 
Fere,  and  attack  from  it.^ 

Sir  John  French,  however,  in  view  of  the  exertions  of 
the  British  Army,  and  its  losses  in  officers  and  men,  and 
even  more  in  material,  was  equally  anxious  to  withdraw 
and  rest  it  for  a  few  days,  in  order  to  make  good  defects. 
He  did  not  consider  that  it  was  in  condition  to  attack  ; 
but  it  was  not  until  9  p.m.,^  when  it  became  known  that 
the  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  was  unable  to  -make  pro- 
gress against  the  Germans,  that  he  issued  orders  for  further 
retreat  to  the  line  Soissons — Compiegne,  behind  the  Aisne.  Sketch  A. 
He  also  warned  Major-General  F.  S.  Robb,  the  Inspector-  Maps  3 
General  of  Communications,  that  he  had  decided  to  make  *" 
"  a  definite  and  prolonged  retreat  due  south,  passing  Paris 
"  to  the  east  or  west." 

Air  reconnaissances  made  during  the  day  showed 
German  columns  sweeping  southwards  over  the  Somme 
between  Ham  and  Peronne,  coming  down  on  the  French 
Sixth  Army,  and  between  the  Oise  and  Somme  west  of 
Guise ;  the  airmen  reported  many  villages  behind  the 
German  front  in  flames.  From  the  French  came  the  in- 
formation that  the  forces  engaged  with  the  right  of  the 
Fifth  Army  were  the  Guard,  X.  and  X.  Reserve  Corps  ^ 
and  that  the  rest  of  Billow's  Army  and  part  of  Kluck's 
were  closing  on  its  left.  Without  the  B.E.F.  to  fill  the  gap 
between  his  Fifth  and  Sixth  Armies,  even  if  their  initial 
operations  had  been  successful.  General  Joffre  felt  that  he 
could  not,  in  view  of  the  general  situation,  risk  fighting  on 
the  Reims — Amiens  line.  His  orders  for  the  retirement 
of  the  Fifth  Army  were  issued  during  the  night  of  the 

1  See  page  217. 

^  Appendix  19. 

'  The  German  situation  at  that  time  was  roughly  as  follows.  The 
Second  and  First  Armies  formed  a  gigantic  wedge,  of  which  the  apex  lay 
a  little  south  of  Ham  :  the  Second  Army,  under  General  von  Biilow, 
extending  from  Etreaupont  on  the  Oise  nearly  to  Ham,  with  its  front 
towards  south  and  south-east  ;  the  First  Army,  under  General  von  Kluck, 
from  Ham  to  Albert,  with  its  front  to  the  south-west.  Both  of  these 
Armies  were  already  weaker  than  the  German  Supreme  Command  had 
originally  intended.  The  First  Army  had  been  obliged  to  leave  the  III. 
Reserve  and  IX.  Reserve  Corps  to  invest  Antwerp  ;  and  upon  this  day  the 
Guard  Reserve  Corps  of  the  Second  Army,  as  well  as  the  XI.  Corps  of  the 
Third  Army  (relieved  by  the  fall  of  Namur),  after  marching  back  to  Aix 
la  Chapelle,  began  to  move  by  rail  to  the  Russian  front.  Further,  the 
Second  Army  had  to  leave  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps  and  part  of  the  VII. 
Corps  to  invest  IMaubeuge. 

VOL.  I  R 


242  THE  RETREAT 

29th/30th,  but  "  owing  to  an  error  in  transmission,"  ^  they 
did  not  reach  General  Lanrezac  until  6  a.m.  on  the  30th, 
and  did  not  begin  to  take  effect  until  about  8.30  a.m., 
when,  without  let  or  hindrance,  the  French  I.  and  X.  Corps 
began  to  withdraw. 

30th  August 

ketches  Sir  John  French  had  left  the  time  of  starting  to  be 

f  ^  *\^\"  settled  by  his  corps  commanders.  The  I.  Corps  began  its 
17^  '  march  southwards  at  3  a.m.,  covered  on  the  eastern  flank 
by  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade,  and  on  the  western  by  the 
3rd.  The  day  was  intensely  hot,  and  in  the  Forest  of  St. 
Gobain  the  air  was  stifling.  Since  crossing  the  Somme, 
the  British  had  passed  into  a  rugged  country  of  deep  wood- 
lands, steep  hills,  narrow  valleys  and  dusty  roads.  Severe 
gradients  and  crowds  of  refugees  multiplied  checks  on  the 
way.  Such  was  the  exhaustion  of  the  men  that  it  was 
necessary  to  curtail  the  march,  and  the  1st  Division  was 
halted  for  the  night  some  eight  miles  north  of  Soissons,  with 
its  head  at  Allemant,  with  the  2nd  Division  a  little  to  the 
south-west  of  it  about  Pasly.  In  the  evening  alarming 
reports  were  received  by  General  Haig  from  the  French 
Fifth  Army,  by  telephone  from  Laon,  stating  that  a  large 
force  of  German  cavalry  was  advancing  in  the  direction  of 
Noyon  towards  the  south-west  of  Laon,  that  is,  between 
Laon  and  Soissons.  General  Lanrezac  made  repeated 
appeals  to  the  I.  Corps  to  move  out  north-eastwards  from 
Soissons  to  fill  the  gap  and  protect  the  left  of  his  Army. 
As  neither  the  Cavalry  Division  nor  the  I.  Corps  rear  guards 
had  seen  or  heard  of  any  enemy  cavalry  in  the  area  men- 
tioned, or  east  of  the  Oise,  until  the  evening,  when  enemy 
parties  were  seen  on  the  heights  west  of  Soissons,  no  atten- 
tion was  paid  to  the  appeals.  There  was  practically  no 
interference  from  the  enemy  on  this  day.  The  rear  guard 
of  the  Cavalry  Division  was  slightly  engaged  by  Uhlans  at 
8  A.M.,  and  two  parties  of  engineers  were  fired  on  whilst 
engaged  in  destroying  the  bridges  over  the  Oise,  but 
completed  their  work.  The  bridge  at  Bailly,  although  the 
charges  were  placed,  was  not  blown  up  in  consequence  of 
a  written  order,  timed  8.45  a.m.,  from  the  II.  Corps,  which 
reached  the  R.E.  officer,  Lieut.  F.  C.  Westland  of  the  7th 
Field  Company,  at  the  bridge  at  10.30  a.m.^ 

1  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.),  p.  517. 

2  The  message  ran :   "  if  bridge  has  not  already  been  destroyed  it  is 
"  not  to  be  blown  up.     This  order  overrules  any  other  order  you  may 


NO  INTERFERENCE  FROM  THE  ENEMY    243 

The  II.  Corps,  together  with  the  4th  Division  and  the  30  Aug. 
]9th  Brigade — the  two  latter  from  this  day  constituted  1914. 
the  III.  Corps  under  Lieut. -General  W.  P.  Pulteney — after 
a  few  hours'  rest  on  conclusion  of  its  night  march,  con- 
tinued its  movement  south-east,  and  halted  on  the  Aisne 
about  Attichy,  the  10th  Brigade  having  been  skilfully  with- 
drawn without  mishap  by  Br. -General  Haldane  from  its 
rear-guard  position  beyond  the  Oise.  The  5th  and  3rd 
Cavalry  Brigades  lay  for  the  night  at  Vauxaillon,  between 
the  1st  and  2nd  Divisions,  and  at  Fontenoy  on  the  Aisne, 
between  the  I.  and  II.  Corps,  respectively  ;  the  1st,  2nd  and 
4th  Cavalry  Brigades  were  reunited  under  the  hand  of  the 
divisional  commander,  on  the  left  of  the  Army,  round 
Compiegne.^  The  gap  between  the  two  wings  of  the  B.E.F. 
was  now  reduced  to  six  miles. 

General  Lanrezac  had  little  diflfiiculty  in  carrying  out  his 
retirement,  though  the  Germans,  apparently  emboldened 
by  news  from  their  aviators  that  the  French  were  with- 
drawing, looked  for  a  time  as  if  they  meant  to  continue 


"  receive  to  blow  it  up."  Tlie  officer,  with  a  corporal,  remained  at 
the  bridge  without  any  covering  party  until  5.30  p.m.  awaiting  orders, 
and  then  left.  Subsequently  orders  were  sent  to  the  4th  Division  to 
destroy  the  bridge,  and  an  attempt  was  made  after  dark ;  but  Major 
J.  B.  Barstow  and  the  men  of  his  party  were  killed  by  a  volley  at 
about  fifteen  yards'  range,  fired,  according  to  Vogel,  by  the  cyclists  of  the 
Guard  Jdger.  The  suspension  bridge  over  the  Oise  at  Pontoise  (3  milek 
south-east  of  Noyon)  in  the  II.  Corps  area  was  not  rendered  unservice- 
able at  the  first  attempt  to  destroy  it.  About  8  a.m.  on  the  30th  a  motor 
cyclist,  Lieut.  R.  R.  F.  West  (Intelligence  Corps),  brought  the  officer 
commanding  59th  Field  Company  R.E.  (5th  Division)  a  private  note  from 
Major  M.  P.  Buckle,  D.S.O.,  second  in  command  of  1/R.  West  Kent  (13th 
Brigade) — killed  in  action  27th  Oct.  1914 — informing  him  that  the  bridge 
was  still  passable,  and  asking  if  anything  could  be  done.  Lieut.  J.  A.  C. 
Pennycuick,  R.E.,  immediately  volunteered  to  return  with  Lieut.  West. 
The  motor  bicycle  was  loaded  up  with  a  box  of  14  guncotton  slabs,  and 
Lieut.  Pennycuick  sat  on  top,  his  pockets  filled  with  fuze,  detonators  and 
primers.  The  two  officers  then  rode  back  the  eight  miles,  passing  first 
infantry  and  then  through  the  cavalry  rear  guard.  They  climbed  up  one 
of  the  suspension-cables  and  placed  13  slabs  on  the  cables  on  top  of  the 
pier,  the  fourteenth  falling  into  the  river.  The  first  detonator  failed,  only 
powdering  the  primer  ;  a  second  attempt  was  made  and  was  successful  : 
the  top  of  the  pier  was  blown  off  and  the  cables  cut,  and  the  bridge 
crashed  down  into  the  river.  No  enemy  appeared  during  the  operation, 
and  the  two  officers  returned  safely,  after  breakfasting  at  a  farm  eti  route. 
They  both  received  the  Distinguished  Service  Order. 

Throughout  the  retreat  there  was  considerable  confusion  with  regard 
to  the  responsibility  for  the  demolition  of  bridges,  the  full  story  of  which 
will  be  found  in  RIajor-General  Sir  R.  U.  H.  Buckland's  articles  in  the 
"  Royal  Engineers  Journal "  1932,  "  Demolitions  at  Mons  and  during  the 
Retreat  1914." 

^  See  page  247. 


244  THE  RETREAT 

the  attack,  particularly  on  his  left  wing ;  but  by  noon  the 
movement  was  well  under  way,  and  the  Germans  seemed 
content  to  let  him  go.^ 

General  Maunoury's  Army  had  also  received  orders  to 
retire,  and  had  fallen  back,  after  sharp  fighting,  from  the 
Avre  south-westward  to  a  line  from  Estrees  St.  Denis 
(where  his  right  was  within  five  miles  of  the  British  at  Com- 
piegne)  to  Quiry.  Kluck  had  shown  signs  of  a  change  of 
direction,  for  his  left  or  inner  wing  had  wheeled  nearly  due 
south,  though  his  right  was  still,  for  the  present,  moving 
south-west  upon  Amiens.  From  the  air  nothing  could  be 
seen  of  the  VII.  Corps  to  the  south  of  Ham,  where  it  was 
expected  (it  is  now  known  it  was  near  St.  Quentin,  the 
14th  Division  having  been  sent  back  to  help  the  X.  Reserve 
Corps),  and  it  was  surmised  that  it  was  concealed  ;  but  the 
columns  of  the  6th  and  5th  Divisions  marching  south  on 
Roye,  and  the  7th  on  Rozieres,  were  observed  and  reported. 
This  seemed  to  indicate,  though  as  yet  the  movement  was 
too  imperfectly  developed  to  make  it  certain,  that  Kluck 
either  considered  Maunoury's  force  to  be  for  the  moment 
powerless  for  any  offensive  action,  or  that  he  believed  him- 
self to  have  gained  the  position  that  he  desired  for  the 
envelopment  of  the  western  flank  of  the  Allied  Army. 
The  British  Army  he  reckoned,  as  the  German  official 
bulletins  testify,  to  have  been  thoroughly  beaten  on  the 
26th  and  following  days  ;  and,  as  from  a  captured  letter  he 
heard  of  Sir  John  French's  anxiety  to  give  it  rest,^  his 
appreciation  in  this  respect  was  less  faulty  than  it  may  since 
have  seemed.  If  Maunoury's  force  could  also  be  dismissed 
as  negligible,  there  was  nothing  to  hinder  Kluck  from 
wheeling  south-east  against  the  open  left  flank  of  the 
French  Fifth  Army,  annihilating  it  in  conjunction  with 
Billow,  and  then  rolling  up  the  French  line  from  west  to 
east.^ 

On  the  morning  of  the  30th  General  Joffre,  considering 
that  the  defence  of  Amiens  and  the  line  of  the  Somme  had 
ceased  to  be  of  any  utility  in  view  of  the  retirement  of  the 
left  wing,  ordered  General  d'Amade  to  withdraw  his  Terri- 
torial divisions  on  Rouen  and  reconstitute  them  on  the  left 
bank  of  the  Seine.  To  General  Maunoury's  enquiry,  what 
would  now  be  his  mission  and  the  direction  of  his  retreat,  the 

1  The  Second  Army  was  given  a  rest  day  on  the  31st  (Bulow,  p.  44, 
Kluck,  p.  76). 

2  Kluck,  p.  81. 

'  Billow  had  called  upon  Kluck  for  this  very  purpose.    See  page  250. 


SIR  JOHN  FRENCH'S  ATTITUDE  245 

French  Commander-in-Chief  rephed  :  "  Your  general  direc-  30  Aug. 
"  tion  of  retreat  is  on  Paris.  Do  not  let  yourself  be  caught  ^^i'** 
"  and  held.  Take  as  your  first  position  of  retirement  the 
"  one  which  you  propose,"  which  was  Compiegne — St.  Just. 
He  placed  Sordet's  cavalry  corps  under  the  Sixth  Army. 
Later  in  the  day  General  Maunoury  reported  that  on  the 
31st  he  proposed  to  fall  back  to  the  line  Verberie  (on  the 
Oise) — Clermont — Beauvais  (35  miles  west  of  Compiegne), 
which  was  approved  of  by  G.Q.G.^ 

On  a  telephone  request  from  General  Joffre,  conveyed  to 
him  before  7  a.m.  on  the  30th  by  the  French  Mission,  Sir 
John  French  agreed  to  stay  the  retreat  of  his  troops  and  con- 
tinue to  fill  the  gap  between  the  Fifth  and  Sixth  Armies, 
of  which  the  B.E.F.  was  a  day's  march  ahead.  In  thanking 
the  British  Commander-in-Chief  for  this  assistance,  General 
Joffre  informed  him  of  the  order  for  retirement  behind  the 
Serre  (which  flows  into  the  Oise  at  La  Fere)  which  he  had 
given  to  the  Fifth  Army,  and  told  him  of  his  further  in- 
tentions in  these  terms  : — 

"  I  have  in  view  the  general  retirement  of  the  forces, 
"  avoiding  any  decisive  action,  so  as  to  hold  out  (durer)  as 
"  long  as  possible.  But  in  the  course  of  these  movements, 
"  it  will  be  of  the  greatest  importance  that  the  British  Army 
"  keeps  in  constant  liaison  with  the  Fifth  Army,  so  as  to  be 
"  able  to  profit  by  favourable  opportunities  and  administer 
"  to  the  enemy  another  severe  lesson  like  that  of  yesterday." 

At  noon,  however.  Sir  John  French  gave  Colonel  Huguet 
a  message,  written  by  his  own  hand,  to  be  telegraphed  to 
General  Joffre.  In  this  he  said  that  "  the  new  plan  of 
"  retreat  having  been  explained  to  me,  I  consider  it  ab- 
"  solutely  necessary  to  inform  you  that  the  British  Army 
"  will  not  be  in  a  state  to  take  its  place  in  the  line  for  ten 
"  days.  I  am  short  of  men  and  guns  to  replace  losses 
"  which  I  have  not  been  able  to  ascertain  exactly  owing 
"  to  the  uninterrupted  retreat  under  the  protection  of 
"  fighting  rear  guards.  You  will  understand  in  these 
"  circumstances  that  I  cannot  comply  with  your  request 
"  to  fill  the  gap  between  the  Fifth  and  Sixth  Armies,  that 
"  is  to  say,  on  the  line  Soissons — Compiegne."  ^ 

1  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  pp.  516-7. 

*  Neither  the  Field-Marshal  nor  any  of  his  chief  advisers  had  been  near 
the  fighting  troops  since  the  28th,  and  he  seems  to  have  been  unaware  of 
the  complete  recovery  of  the  3rd,  4th  and  5th  Divisions  from  the  hard 
day  of  Le  Cateau.  Only  the  5th  Division  had  suffered  any  important  loss 
of  gims  ;  the  I.  Corps  had  hardly  been  engaged,  and  General  Haig  had 
indicated  its  state  by  liis  readiness  to  co-operate  with  the  French  at  Guise. 


246  THE  RETREAT 

Sir  John  French  proposed  to  retire  "  westwards " 
behind  the  Seine,  to  an  area  just  west  of  Paris  ;  ^  but  it  was 
pointed  out  to  him  by  the  French  General  Staff  that  such 
a  march  would  cross  the  communications  of  the  Sixth 
Army.  He  therefore  agreed,  at  General  Joffre's  suggestion, 
to  retire  in  the  first  instance  by  the  east  of  Paris,  behind 
the  Marne  between  Meaux  and  Neuilly,  so  that,  if  necessary, 
he  could  pursue  his  retirement  westwards  by  the  south  of 
the  capital.  At  the  same  time,  the  French  Commander-in- 
Chief  informed  his  Government  of  Sir  John  French's  state 
of  mind. 

At  5.15  P.M.  G.H.Q.  issued  amended  orders  ^  for  the 
B.E.F.  to  move  south,  the  I.  Corps  and  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade  to  the  area  about  Villers  Cotterets  ;  the  II.  Corps, 
on  the  west  of  the  I.  Corps,  to  the  area  Feigneux — Bethisy 
St.  Martin — Crepy  en  Valois  ;  the  III.  Corps  further  to  the 
north-west,  to  the  area  St.  Sauveur — Verberie ;  and  the 
Cavalry  Division,  most  westerly  of  all,  to  the  line  of  the 
Oise  beyond  Verberie.  General  Allenby  was  subsequently 
informed  that,  as  the  French  had  closed  in  on  the  British 
left,  he  could  use  the  area  between  the  III.  Corps  and  the 
river. 

31sT  August 

On  the  31st,  which  saw  the  completion  of  the  German 
victory  at  Tannenberg,  the  British  accordingly  resumed 
their  march  under  the  same  trying  conditions  of  dust,  heat 
and  thirst  as  on  the  previous  day.  The  I.  Corps  opened 
the  operations  with  the  passage  of  the  Aisne  in  two  columns, 
at  Soissons  and  just  west  of  it.  The  transport  was  often 
in  difficulties,  owing  to  the  steep  gradients  of  the  roads 
to  the  south  of  the  river,  and  the  scarcity  of  water  every- 
where was  a  great  trial  to  both  men  and  horses.  Once 
again  the  infantry  was  wholly  untroubled  by  the  enemy — 
the  men  of  the  6th  Brigade  actually  had  time  for  a  bathe 
in  the  Aisne — and  the  cavalry  rear  guards,  which  covered 
the  march,  were  never  really  pressed.  The  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade  had  to  keep  some  Uhlans  at  a  distance  when 
crossing  the  Aisne  6  miles  west  of  Soissons  at  Fontenoy  ; 
and  heads  of  German  columns  were  reported  at  Noyon 

^  Maps  of  the  area  from  Paris  westward  to  St.  Nazaire  were  ordered 
by  the  Sub-Chief  of  the  General  Staff  to  be  procured  for  issue  to  the  troops. 
See  also  "  Annals  of  an  Active  Life  "  (p.  206),  by  General  Sir  Nevil 
Macjeady,  who  was  at  the  time  Adjutant-General  to  the  B.E.F. 

*  Appendix  20. 


A  SHORT  MARCH  247 

and  south  of  it  on  the  road  to  Compiegne.^  In  this  quarter,  31  Aug. 
west  of  the  Oise,  the  3rd  Hussars  {4th  Cavalry  Brigade)  i^^^- 
were  in  touch  with  hostile  patrols  from  daybreak  onward, 
the  enemy's  force  gradually  increasing  until  it  drew  the 
whole  regiment  into  action.  The  fight  was,  however, 
broken  off  without  difficulty,  and  at  noon,  the  3rd  Hussars 
retired,  having  suffered  trifling  loss  and  killed  a  good  many 
troopers  of  the  German  3rd  Hussars — divisional  cavalry 
of  the  German  ///.  Corps — which,  by  a  curious  coincidence, 
were  opposed  to  them. 

The  heat  of  the  day,  the  difficulty  of  the  country  and 
the  exhaustion  of  the  troops,  however,  compelled  the 
greater  part  of  the  Army  to  stop  short  of  their  intended 
destinations.  The  I.  Corps  halted  for  the  night  on  the  Map  18. 
northern,  instead  of  on  the  western  side,  of  the  Forest 
of  Villers  Cotterets,  midway  between  it  and  the  river 
Aisne  :  1st  Division  around  Missy,  2nd  Division  around 
Laversine.  The  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army,  which  was 
continuing  its  retreat,  was  near  Vauxaillon,  12  miles  to 
the  north. 

The  II.  Corps  halted  at  Coyolles,  south-west  of  Villers 
Cotterets,  and  at  Crepy  en  Valois  :  3rd  Division  on  the 
east,  5th  Division  on  the  west. 

The  III.  Corps,  after  a  flank  march  through  the  Forest 
of  Compiegne,  reached  its  allotted  area,  at  the  south- 
western corner  of  the  forest  about  Verberie,  but  at  a 
late  hour,  some  units  not  taking  up  their  billets  before 
10  P.M.  The  corps  was  separated  by  a  gap  of  some  five 
miles  from  the  nearest  troops  of  the  II.  Corps  at  Crepy, 
but  in  touch  with  the  French  on  its  left,  some  of  the  Sixth 
Army  troops  actually  being  in  Verberie. 

The  5th  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  halted  in  the  same 
area  as  the  I.  Corps.  Of  the  other  brigades,  the  4th  was 
with  the  III.  Corps  at  Verberie,  and  the  2nd  west  of  it  at 
Chevrieres,  in  touch  with  the  French  Sixth  Army,  which, 
on  this  evening,  reached  the  Chevrieres — Beauvais  line. 
The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  and  L  Battery  R.H.A.  on  the 
western  flank  of  the  Army  had  moved  out  soon  after  dawn 
on  the  31st  from  Compiegne  on  the  road  towards  Amiens, 
and  had  remained  halted  for  a  considerable  time,  on  the 
watch  for  German  troops  advancing  in  that  quarter. 
Seeing  no  sign  of  any,  the  brigade,  after  a  wide  sweep 

1  The  German  III.  Corps  crossed  the  Oise  in  two  cohimns  at  Noyon 
and  Ribecourt,  and  Marwitz's  cavalry  crossed  near  Compiegne  (see 
Kluck's  map). 


248  THE  RETREAT 

westward,  recrossed  the  Oise  to  Verberie,  and  made  its 
way  to  Nery,  there  to  form  a  Unk — though  it  could  not  fill 
up  the  gap — between  the  II.  and  III.  Corps.  It  did  not 
reach  its  destination  until  dusk,  and  L  Battery  did  not 
join  it  until  half  an  hour  later. 

Aerial  reconnaissance  upon  this  day  confirmed  the  fact 
that  Kluck  had  reached  the  limit  of  his  western  advance, 
and  was  wheeling  south-eastward,  covering  his  southern 
flank  with  his  cavalry.^  The  columns  of  the  18th,  6th,  5th, 
7th,  8th,  3rd  and  4th  Divisions  marching  towards  the  Oise 
were  reported,  the  heads  of  the  first  three  close  to  it,  and 
at  1  P.M.  it  was  noticed  that  cavalry  was  moving  south- 
east from  the  river  at  Thourotte,  and  that  the  road  and 
railway  bridges  at  Compiegne  were  blown  up.  At  least 
two  cavalry  divisions  were  known  to  have  reached  the 
Oise  during  the  afternoon  of  the  31st  ;  and  it  appeared 
that  three  actually  crossed  the  river  between  Noyon  and 
Compiegne,  two  of  which  were  reported  to  be  moving  east 
upon  Vauxaillon,  while  the  third  was  passing  through 
Bailly  (8  miles  north-east  of  Compiegne)  at  2.30  p.m.^  The 
capture  of  a  trooper  of  the  German  8th  Hussars,  by  the 
2/Royal  Welch  Fusiliers  after  a  brush  with  a  German  patrol 
towards  dusk  to  the  north-west  of  Verberie,  seemed  to 
indicate  the  presence  of  the  German  4th  Cavalry  Division 
in  this  quarter.  A  heavy  German  column,  reckoned  to  be 
ten  thousand  strong,  was  also  reported  to  have  reached 
Gournay  (about  eight  miles  north-west  of  Compiegne)  at 
3  P.M.,  and  to  be  moving  south. ^  A  captured  order  issued 
to  the  8th  Division  of  the  German  IV.  Corps  from  Beau- 
court  (14  miles  south-east  of  Amiens)  at  6.45  a.m.  on  the 
31st,  also  revealed  the  project  which  was  in  Kluck's  mind 
at  the  time.  The  order  gave  the  information  that  the 
French  troops  (Maunoury's)  on  the  Avre  had  been  defeated 
on  the  29th  and  had  withdrawn  ;  that  the  British  were 
retreating    south-eastward    (sic)  ;     and    that    Biilow    had 

1  For  the  German  movements  see  Note  I.  at  end  of  Chapter. 

2  According  to  Kluck,  on  the  31st  Marmtz's  three  cavalry  divisions 
{2nd,  4th  and  9th)  crossed  the  Oise  at  Thourotte,  and  thence  marched 
through  the  Forest  of  Laigue  to  Attichy  on  the  Aisne,  but  Poseck  (p.  7G 
and  map)  puts  them  at  night  about  six  miles  south  of  Compiegne. 
Richthofen's  two  divisions  (Guard  and  5th)  reached  Noyon  on  the  30th, 
and  moved  on  the  31st  across  the  British  front  via  Bailly  and  Ribecourt 
to  Vauxaillon,  actually  between  the  British  and  the  left  of  the  French 
Fifth  Army.  General  Lanrezac's  fears  of  the  previous  day  had  materialized, 
but  the  German  cavalry  did  not  persevere.  The  two  di\isions  {Guard  and 
Stli)  passed  the  night  north  of  Soissons,  and  next  day  remained  just  north 
of  the  town. 

8  These  are  now  known  to  have  been  French  troops. 


THE  RETREAT  CONTINUED  249 

defeated  at  Guise  the  French  Fifth  Army,  large  bodies  of  3i  Aug. 
which  were  retiring  through   La  Fere ;    and   it  set  forth   ^^^'*- 
that  the  task  of  the  German  First  Army  was  to  cut  off 
the  retreat  of  that  Army.     It  concluded:  "Again,  therefore, 
"  we  must  call  upon  the  troops  for  forced  marches."  ^ 

However,  at  the  moment,  the  one  thing  clear  to  Sir  John 
French  was  that  the  German  First  Army,  which  had  prac- 
tically left  the  British  Army  alone  since  the  26th,  was  again 
closing  in  upon  it  in  great  force.  During  the  day  several 
telegrams  passed  between  him  and  the  Secretary  of  State 
for  War  and  between  G.Q.G.  and  G.H.Q.  Lord  Kitchener's 
communications  clearly  showed  the  surprise  and  consterna- 
tion of  the  Government  at  the  course  which  the  British 
Commander-in-Chief  was  taking  in  withdrawing  the  B.E.F. 
from  the  fighting  line,  and  their  fear  of  its  effect  on  the 
French.  The  latter  had  replied  that  he  had  already  been 
left  several  times  in  the  lurch  by  his  Allies,  that  if  there 
was  a  gap  in  the  line  it  was  their  affair,  and  that  the  force 
under  his  command  in  its  present  condition  could  hardly 
withstand  a  strong  attack  from  even  one  German  corps  : 
General  Joffre  had  informed  him  in  writing  that,  according 
to  reports  received,  the  Germans  were  withdrawing  numer- 
ous troops  {XI.  and  Guard  Reserve  Corps)  from  France  for 
transfer  to  the  Eastern  Front,  and  that  General  Lanrezac's 
attack  at  Guise  on  the  29th  had  been  a  real  check  for  the 
German  Second  Army,  as  Biilow's  delay  in  the  resumption 
of  his  advance  was  demonstrating.  General  Joffre  had 
further  stated  that  the  Fifth  and  Sixth  Armies  now  had 
instructions  not  to  yield  ground  except  under  pressure  ; 
but  that  they  could  not  of  course  be  expected  to  stand  if 
there  was  a  gap  between  them.  "  I  earnestly  request 
"  Field-Marshal  French,"  he  wrote,  "  not  to  withdraw  the 
"  British  Army  until  we  are  compelled  to  give  ground,  and 
"  at  least  to  leave  rear  guards,  so  as  not  to  give  the  enemy 
"  the  clear  impression  of  a  retreat  and  of  a  gap  between  the 
"  Fifth  and  Sixth  Armies." 

In  spite  of  these  suggestions  and  requests,  at  8.50  p.m. 
Sir  John  French  issued  orders  for  the  retreat  to  be  con- 
tinued on  the  morrow.  2 

1  Haiiptmann  Bloem  relates  that  the  three  battaUon  commanders  of 
his  regiment  made  a  protest  to  the  regimental  commander  with  regard 
to  the  excessive  marching  and  were  met  by  the  brief  reply  "  Sweat  saves 
blood." 

*  Appendix  21, 


250 


THE  RETREAT 


NOTE  I 

Movements  of  the  German  First  and  Second  Armies 
29th  to  31st  August 

The  movements  of  the  German  right  wing  on  the  30th  and  31st 
August  had  a  decisive  effect  on  the  campaign.  Instead  of  pursuing 
his  march  towards  the  lower  Seine,  as  ordered  by  O.H.L.  on  the 
28th,  and  making  a  wide  sweep  which  might  have  caught  in  it 
General  Maunoury's  Army  and  the  B.E.F.,  Kluck  wheeled  his  Army 
south-eastwards  towards  the  Oise,  in  response  to  Billow's  request 
that  he  should  help  him  to  exploit  the  supposed  success  in  the  Battle 
of  Guise  and  finish  off  the  French  Fifth  Army,  The  messages  are  of 
interest. 

Kluck  says  :  "  At  5.55  p.m.  on  30th  a  wireless  message  (which  was 
'  also  read  at  O.H.L.)  was  received  from  Second  Army  Headquarters  : 
'  '  Enemy  decisively  beaten  to-day  ;  strong  forces  retiring  on  La 
'  '  Fere.  The  British,  who  were  barring  the  Oise  south-west  of  La 
'  '  Fere,  are  also  retreating,  some  in  a  southerly,  some  in  a  south- 
'  '  easterly  direction.'  This  was  followed  by  a  second  message  at 
'  6.30  P.M.  '  To  gain  the  full  advantages  of  the  victory  a  wheel 
'  '  inwards  of  the  First  Army,  pivoted  on  Chauny,  towards  the  line 
'  '  La  Fere — Laon  is  highly  desirable.'  " 

Billow  does  not  give  these  messages,  but  says  that  on  the  29th 
'  The  First  Army  was  asked  by  wireless  to  support  the  Second  Army 
'  on  the  30th,  and  at  7.5  p.m.  on  the  30th  the  following  information 
'  was  received  from  the  First  Army  :  '  Right  wing  of  First  Army 
'  '  has  thrown  the  enemy  over  the  Avre.  Will  advance  to-morrow 
'  '  against  the  Oise  section  Comi^iegne — Chauny.' "  Kluck  likewise 
does  not  give  this  message,  but  admits  that  "  during  the  evening  of 
'  the  30th  August  O.H.L.  was  informed  that  the  First  Army  had 
'  wheeled  round  towards  the  Oise  and  would  advance  on  the  31st 
'  by  Compiegne  and  Noyon  to  exploit  the  success  of  the  Second 
'  Army.'''  ^ 

The  German  Supreme  Command  concurred  in  the  proposed  moves, 
and  at  9.10  despatched  to  the  First  and  Second  Armies  the  following 
message  :  "  Third  Army  is  wheeling  south  towards  the  Aisne, 
"  attacking  against  Rethel — Semuy,  and  will  pursue  in  a  southerly 
"  direction.  The  movements  begun  by  the  First  and  Second  Armies 
"  are  in  accordance  with  the  intention  of  O.H.L."  The  lower 
Seine  ceased  therefore  to  be  the  objective  of  the  First  Army.^  All 
appeared  to  be  going  well,  except  that  the  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies 
were  not  making  much  progress  towards  the  Moselle,  as  instructed 
in  the  "  General  Directions  "  issued  by  O.H.L.  on  the  28th.  Crown 
Prince  Rupprecht  reported  "  that  there  were  still  opposite  him 
"  strong  French  forces,  of  whom  reports  came  in  at  one  moment 
"  that  they  were  retiring,  at  another  that  they  were  attacking."  ' 
A  deadlock  on  the  eastern  frontier,  provided  the  Sixth  and  Seventh 

^  German  critics  consider  that  instead  of  taking  his  whole  Army  to 
exploit  Billow's  supposed  success,  Kluck  should  have  at  least  sent  one 
corps  and  some  cavalry  to  follow  up  and  keep  touch  with  the  British,  if 
not  with  the  French  whom  he  had  "  thrown  over  the  Avre." 

2  G.O.A.,  iii.  p.  187. 

3  G.O.A.,  iii.  p.  188. 


HKEIVH       W. 


E   GERMAN  ADVANCE,    17  AUGUST -5  SEPTEMBER,  1914: 


NORTH 
SEA 


PDiisseldorf 


ankirk 


Cologne 


lens 


IAN  ARMIES  17  Aug 
MARCH,  18  Aug.-5  Sept 
POSITIONS,  5  Sept. 

ed  Areas 

Jff,  BELGIAN  £ 
m  ARMIES.  5  S>-pt. 


SCALE 
0       10      20      30      40      50      60      70      90      90      100  MILES 


Ordnance  Survey,  1920. 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  251 

Armies  held  an  equal  number  of  French  there,  did  not,  however,  29-31  Aug 
endanger,  indeed  it  might  actually  favour,  the  accomplishment  of  the  1914. 
main  aim  of  the  Schlieffen  Plan  without  the  First  Army  having  to 
pass  west  and  south  of  the  capital.  But  the  Supreme  Command 
continued  to  believe  that  the  time  for  the  final  stage  of  the  Schlieffen 
Plan,  a  complete  "  Cannae  "  in  the  open  field,  had  arrived,  and  on 
the  30th  August  their  representative.  Major  Bauer,  informed  Crown 
Prince  Rupprecht  of  the  rapid  progress  of  the  right  wing,  but  that 
"  serious  resistance  might  still  be  anticipated  between  Paris  and 
"  the  eastern  fortresses  :  of  the  Sixth  Army  it  was  therefore  expected 
"  that  it  would  fall  on  the  enemy's  flank  in  the  gap  between  Epinal 
"  and  Toul,  and  so  bring  about  a  decision."  ^ 

Fortunately  Kluck  had  wasted  time  by  his  thrust  in  the  air  west- 
wards after  Le  Cateau,  and  his  assistance  to  Biilow  came  too  late. 
The  leading  corps  of  the  German  First  Army,  the  IX.  and  ///., 
managed  to  cross  the  Oise  between  Chauny  and  Bailly  on  the  31st 
and  reached  the  line  Vezaponin — Vic — Attichy,  12  miles  beyond, 
with  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps  on  their  right  front  ;  the  IV.  and  II. 
swung  round  behind  them  to  the  line  Mareuil — Tricot — Maignelay, 
west  and  abreast  of  Noyon,  with  the  IV.  Reserve  still  further  in 
rear,  in  and  south  of  Amiens.  Thus,  on  that  day,  German  corps 
were  moving  south-eastwards  north  of  the  Aisne,  whilst  the  B.E.F. 
was  marching  more  or  less  south-westwards  on  the  other  side  of 
that  river.  Kluck,  therefore,  thinking  by  "  extraordinary  forced 
"  marches  "  to  outflank  the  Allies,^  was  actually  advancing  into  the 
net  that  Joffre  had  in  preparation  for  him.* 

The  German  Second  Army  rested  on  the  31st  after  its  battle  at 
Guise  on  the  previous  two  days,  as  already  related.* 

^  Bavarian  O.A.,  ii.  p.  584.     G.O.A.,  iii.  p.  285. 
2  Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  104. 

*  The  following  description  of  General  Kluck  at  Lassigny  (12  miles 
north  of  Compiegne)  on  the  30th  August  1914,  by  M.  Albert  Fab  re, 
Conseiller  a  la  Cour  d' appal  de  Paris  (given  in  M.  Hanotaux's  "  Histoire 
illustree  de  la  Guerre  de  1914,"  viii.  p.  158),  seems  worthy  of  quotation. 
The  general  had  dejeuner  at  M.  Fabre's  villa  and  gave  him  a  "  safeguard  " 
for  the  house  signed  by  his  own  hand. 

"  Bientot,  un  mouvement  se  produisit  parmi  les  officiers  qui  se  rangferent 
"  devant  la  porte  de  la  propriete.  Une  automobile  s'arreta.  Un  officier 
"  d'allure  impressionnante  et  arrogante  en  descendit.  II  s'avan§a  seul 
"  jusqu'au  milieu  du  terre-plein  de  la  villa.  II  etait  grand,  majestueux,  il 
"  avait  le  visage  rase  et  ravage,  les  traits  durs,  le  regard  effrayant.  II  tenait, 
"  a  la  main  droite,  un  fusil  de  soldat  ;  sa  main  gauche  etait  appuyee  sur  la 
"  crosse  d'un  revolver  d'ordonnance.  II  fit  plusieurs  tours  sur  lui-meme 
"  en  frappant  le  sol  de  la  crosse  de  son  fusil  et  s'arreta  dans  une  pose 
"  theatrale.  Personne  ne  semblait  oser  I'approcher.  Le  personnage  avait 
"  I'air  veritablement  terrible.  J'eus  la  vision  d'Attila.  C'etait  le  trop 
"  fameux  von  Kluck." 

*  Hauptmann  Brinekmann  of  the  Second  Army  staff  came  over  and 
reported  to  the  First  Army  that  the  Second  Army  "  was  exhausted  by  the 
"  Battle  of  Guise  and  unable  to  pursue  "  (Kuhl's  "  Marne,"  p.  109).  Biilow 
says  :  "  On  the  31st  the  troops  of  the  Second  Army  were  placed  in  positions 
"  of  readiness  for  the  attack  on  La  Fere  "  (p.  44). 


252  THE  RETREAT 

NOTE  II 

The  Battle  of  Guise  ^ 
(Called  by  the  Germans,  St.  Quentin) 

29th-30th  August  1914 

As  early  as  the  24th  August,  after  the  French  defeats  in  the 
Battles  of  the  Frontier,  General  Joffre  had  proposed  to  make  a 
counter-attack  "  in  the  centre  "  with  the  Fifth  Army ,2  which,  owing 
to  the  skilful  leading  of  General  Lanrezac,  was  still  intact  and  un- 
shaken. On  the  night  of  the  25th/26th,  he  postponed  any  action 
until  he  "  had  constituted  on  the  left  by  the  junction  of  the  Fourth, 
"  Fifth  and  British  Armies,  and  forces  drawn  from  the  east,  a  mass 
"  capable  of  resuming  the  offensive."  *  It  was  the  intention  of 
General  Lanrezac  himself  to  order  a  counter-attack  directly  he  was 
clear  of  the  enclosed  and  broken  country  of  the  Avesnes  region,  in 
which  "  his  intact  artillery  could  not  effectively  support  his  infantry." 
[ap  14.  During  the  27th  his  four  corps,  in  line,  crossed  the  Oise  and  its 
tributary,  the  Thon,  his  right  being  25  miles  east  of  Guise,  and 
Valabregue's  group  of  two  Reserve  divisions,  on  his  left,  covering 
the  passages  near  Guise.  General  Joffre,  by  telephone  message, 
now  urged  the  Fifth  Army  to  take  action,  as  the  ground  was  suitable, 
adding,  "  you  need  not  pay  attention  to  what  the  British  do  on  your 
"  left." 
[ap  15.  For  the  28th,  therefore.  General  Lanrezac  ordered  his  corps  "  to 
"  close  on  the  left,  so  as  to  face  north-west  and  be  in  position  to 
"  attack  any  enemy  columns  which  cross  the  Oise."  No  sooner  had 
these  instructions  been  issued  than  he  received  from  G.Q.G.  (timed 
10.10  P.M.,  date  of  receipt  not  stated),  the  following  order  : 

"  From  information  received,  it  appears  that  parts  of  the 
"  German  VII.  and  IX.  Corps,  forming  part  of  the  Second  Army, 
"  opposed  to  you,  have  been  left  before  Maubeuge.  [Actually  these 
"  corps  had  just  been  relieved  by  the  VII.  Reserve  Corps.^  It  is 
"  therefore  possible  to  come  to  the  help  of  the  British  Army  by  acting 
"  against  the  enemy  forces  [X.  Reserve,  VII.  and  half  IX.  Corps] 
"  which  are  advancing  against  it  west  of  the  Oise.  You  will  in 
"  consequence  send  your  left  to-morrow  between  the  Oise  and  St. 
"  Quentin  to  attack  any  enemy  force  marching  against  the  British 
"  Army." 

At  9  A.M.  on  the  28th  General  Joffre  himself  visited  General 
Lanrezac's  advanced  headquarters  at  Marie  (13  miles  south-east  of 
Guise),  and  gave  him  the  following  written  order  : 

"  The  Fifth  Army  will  attack  as  soon  as  possible  the  enemy 
"  forces  which  advanced  yesterday  against  the  British  Army.  It 
"  will  cover  its  right  with  the  minimum  of  forces,  sending  recon- 
"  naissances  to  a  great  distance  on  that  flank," 

^  See  the  French  and  German  Official  Accounts,  the  two  official  mono- 
graphs, "  Schlacht  bei  St.  Quentin,"  I.  and  II.,  General  Lanrezac's  "  Le 
Plan  de  Campagne  fran9aise,"  and  General  Rouquerol's  "  Bataille  de 
Guise." 

2  "  Joffre  et  la  Marne,"  p.  64,  by  Commandant  Muller  (General  Joffre's 
officier  d'ordonnance). 

3  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  p.  21  et  seq. 


THE  BATTLE  OF  GUISE  253 

The  Fifth  Army,  therefore,  made  some  modifications  in  the  des-  29-30  Aug. 
tinations  allotted  to  its  corps.  1914. 

Near  Guise  the  Oise,  running  in  a  large  valley  cut  into  the  general  Sketch  8. 
plain  of  northern  France,  makes  a  nearly  right-angled  bend  :  by 
Lanrezac's  orders,  under  cover  of  the  X.  Corps  facing  northwards 
behind  the  east  and  west  course  of  the  Oise,  the  III.  and  XVIII. 
Corps  were  to  continue  the  march  westwards  on  the  29th,  and, 
with  Valabregue's  Reserve  divisions,  cross  the  lower,  north  and 
south,  reach  of  the  river  towards  St.  Quentin  to  fall  on  the  flank  of 
the  German  forces  moving  west  of  the  river.  The  I.  Corps  and  4th 
Cavalry  Division  were  to  follow  in  reserve,  the  former  well  to  the 
south. 

On  the  evening  of  the  28th  the  advanced  guards  of  the  left  wing 
of  the  German  Second  Army  (the  Guard  and  X.  Corps)  gained  pos- 
session of  the  bridges  of  the  upper  reach  of  the  Oise,  General  von 
Billow  being  under  the  impression  that  he  had  in  front  of  him  there 
only  weak  French  and  British  rear  guards.  His  right  wing  {X. 
Reserve  and  VII.  Corps)  was  nearly  twenty  miles  ahead  of  his  left, 
south  of  St.  Quentin,  and  aligned  facing  south-west,  abreast  of 
Kluck's  Army.  Thus  there  were  two  distinct  battles  on  the  29th 
August,  fought  on  different  sides  of  the  Oise. 

In  the  thick  mist  of  the  early  morning  of  that  day  the  columns 
of  the  French  X.  Corps,  moving  westwards  as  covering  force,  came 
into  collision  with  the  heads  of  the  two  German  corps  pushing  south- 
wards uphill  from  the  river  to  the  plateau  above,  combats  taking 
place  in  the  various  villages  where  the  roads,  on  which  both  sides 
were  marching,  crossed.  Thus  what  had  occurred  in  the  original 
advance  of  the  French  Third  and  Fourth  Armies  ten  days  earlier 
was  now  reversed,  the  German  columns  blundering  head-on  into  the 
broadside  of  French  columns  crossing  their  front. 

The  X.  Corps,  supported  as  the  day  went  on  by  the  artillery  and 
part  of  the  5th  Division  of  the  III.  Corps,  and  later  by  the  I.  Corps, 
though  at  first  in  some  difficulty,  eventually  held  its  own,  and  at 
night  the  French  made  a  slight  general  advance,  which  sent  the 
German  Guard  and  X.  Corps  back  towards  the  Oise,  and  some 
portions  of  them  over  it  :  the  commander  of  the  Guard  Corps  being 
authorized,  "  after  long  and  earnest  discussion,  to  withdraw  behind 
"  the  Oise."  Actually,  only  Hutier's  1st  Guard  Division  on  the 
eastern  flank  appears  to  have  recrossed. 

On  the  western  wing,  on  the  other  battlefield,  the  advance  of 
the  heads  of  the  French  III.  and  XVIII.  Corps  and  Valabregue's 
Group  equally  came  as  a  complete  surprise  to  Billow's  scattered 
right  wing,  their  camp  fires  of  the  previous  night  having  been  mis- 
taken by  the  Germans  for  those  of  their  own  left  wing.  The  G.O.C. 
X.  Reserve  Corps  and  five  of  his  staff  actually  motored  up  to  a  village 
occupied  by  the  French,  and  were  all  wounded.  Had  the  British 
I.  Corps  been  permitted  by  Sir  John  French  to  take  part  in  the 
battle,  if  only  by  fire  on  the  German  front  whilst  the  French  con- 
tinued their  flank  attack,  an  important  defeat  might  have  been 
administered  to  the  Second  Army.  In  view,  however,  of  the  German 
advance  against  the  French  right  wing,  and  the  inaction  of  the  British, 
the  movement  of  the  left  wing  could  not  be  persisted  in.  At  11  a.m. 
the  G.O.C.  III.  Corps  reported  that,  his  5th  Division  having  faced 
north  to  assist  the  X.  Corps  in  warding  off  the  flank  attack,  he  had 
suspended  the  passage  of  any  more  of  the  6th  Division  across  the 


254  THE  RETREAT 

lower  reach  of  the  Oise  ;    and  the  G.O.C.  XVIII.  Corps  thereupon 
halted  his  division,  which,  after  holding  on  all  day,  recrossed  the 

Jap  16.  river  at  night,  the  Reserve  di\dsions  having  retired  a  little  earlier. 

For  the  30th,  General  Lanrezac  ordered  his  left  wing  to  hold  the 
line  of  the  Oise,  whilst  the  III.,  I.  and  X.  Corps  drove  into  the  river 
what  Germans  remained  south  of  the  upper  reach.  In  view,  however, 
of  the  dangerous  position  of  his  Army,  with  both  its  flanks  exposed 
and  no  hope  of  assistance  on  either  side.  General  Lanrezac  tele- 
phoned to  G.Q.G.  for  further  instructions,  pointing  out  that  if  he 
delayed  withdrawal  his  troops  ran  the  risk  of  being  surrounded. 
In  the  absence  of  General  Joffre,  General  Belin,  his  Chief  of  the 
Staff,  would  give  no  orders  ;  but  at  10  p.m.  a  ciphered  telegram  was 
despatched  to  General  Lanrezac  : — 

"  The  effect  of  the  attack  of  the  Fifth  Army  having  made  itself 
"  felt  and  disengaged  in  part  the  Sixth  Army'  [in  action  that  day 
"  with  Kluck],  the  Fifth  Army  will  take  measures  to  break  off  the 
"  battle  and  retire  behind  the  Serre.  The  breaking-off  should  take 
"  place  before  daylight."  Unfortunately,  according  to  the  French 
Official  Account,  this  telegram  went  astray,  and  the  first  General 
Lanrezac  heard  of  its  contents  was  at  7  a.m.  on  the  30th,  when  it 
was  sent  to  him  over  the  telephone. 

Fortunately  the  Germans  had  received  too  severe  a  blow  for  this 
curious  delay  to  be  of  any  consequence.  Biilow  ordered  the  A'. 
and  Guard  Corps  to  renew  the  attack  on  the  30th,  but  General  von 
Emmich,  commanding  the  former,  refused  to  advance,  fearing  that 
the  French  were  about  to  fall  upon  him  :  it  was  not  until  about  2  p.m. 
that  his  19th  Division  moved,  and  4.30  p.m.  before  the  20th  Division 
did  so.  It  is  not  clear  from  German  accounts  what  the  Guard  Corps 
did  ;  but  it  did  not  renew  the  attack,  and  seems  to  have  taken  up  a 
flank  position  alarmed  by  the  appearance  of  the  French  51st  Reserve 
Division,  which  had  come  up  from  the  east  to  Voulpaix  on  the  right 
of  the  Fifth  Army. 

Map  17.  The  corps  of  the  Fifth  Army  therefore  retired  practically  un- 
noticed and  unhindered.  About  1.50  p.m.  a  German  aeroplane  dis- 
covered that  French  columns  were  streaming  away.  At  3.45  Biilow 
informed  his  Army  of  its  victory,  and  ordered  that  the  enemy 
should  be  pursued  by  "  artillery  fire  and  infantry  detachments," 
but  that  on  the  31st  the  Army  would  "  halt  and  rest."  In  comment- 
ing on  the  order  for  a  rest  day  instead  of  a  general  pursuit,  the 
German  official  monograph  defends  Billow's  consideration  for  his 
troops,  recalling  that  after  the  Battle  of  St.  Quentin  in  January 
1871  General  von  Goeben  had  not  ordered  a  pursuit.  The  weather 
conditions  and  length  of  daylight  were,  however,  somewhat  dis- 
similar on  the  two  occasions. 


3 
0) 


« 

O 


CHAPTER  XII 

THE    RETREAT    {continued) 
1st    SEPTEMBER 

NERY,    CREPY    EN    VALOIS    AND    VILLERS    COTTERETS 

(Sketches  A,  9,  10  &  11 ;  Maps  4,  19  &  20) 

The  Fight  at  Nery 

G.H.Q.   operation  orders  ^  sent  out  at  8.50  p.m.   on  the  sketches 
31st  August  from  Dammartin  en  Goele  gave  the  information  9  &  ii. 
that  the  enemy  appeared  to  have  completed  his  westerly  ^^^P^^  ■* 
movement  and  to  be  wheeling  to  the  south,  and  that  large 
columns    were    advancing   in   a   general    south    or   south- 
easterly direction  on  Noyon — Compiegne,  covered  by  at 
least  two  cavalry  divisions  which  had  reached  the  Oise 
that   afternoon.     The   following  movements   towards   the 
south-west,  marches  of  some  ten  to  fourteen  miles,  if  all 
divisions    reached    their    destinations    on   the    31st,    were 
ordered  to  be  carried  out  next  day  : 

The  I.  Corps  to  move  to  the  area  La  Ferte  Milon — Betz. 

The  II.  Corps  to  Betz — Nanteuil. 

The  III.  Corps  to  Nanteuil — Baron. 

The  Cavalry  Division  to  Baron — Mont  I'fiveque. 

Special  instructions  were  given  that  the  rear  guard  of 
the  III.  Corps  was  to  reach  a  line  drawn  east  and  west 
through  Nery  by  6  a.m.  ;  but,  owing  to  the  lateness  of  the 
hour  at  which  many  units  arrived  at  their  billets,  General 
Pulteney  was  obliged  to  represent  that  this  was  impossible. 
In  obedience  to  the  spirit  of  the  order,  however,  he  reported 
that  the  transport  of  his  corps  would  move  off  at  1  a.m. 

The  night  passed  quietly,  with  rather  less  than  the 
usual  disturbances  and  alarms,  except  those  occasioned  by 
the  French  in  and  near  Verberie  disappearing  about  mid- 

^  Appendix  21. 
255 


256  THE  RETREAT 

night  without  a  word  of  explanation.  There  was  no  indi- 
cation that  there  would  be  contact  with  the  enemy  in  the 
early  morning.  Several  small  actions,  however,  took  place 
on  the  1st  September.  They  might  be  dismissed  in  a  few 
w^ords,  were  it  not  that  they  show  that  the  British  were  more 
than  able  to  hold  their  own  when  fortune  brought  them  to 
grips  with  the  enemy  ;  whilst  the  practical  destruction, 
with  loss  of  its  guns,  of  the  German  4th  Cavalry  Division 
had  important  results  on  the  conditions  under  which  the 
Battle  of  the  Marne  opened  a  week  later. 

Dawn  broke  with  dense  mist,  presaging  another  day 
of  excessive  heat.  The  1st  Cavalry  Brigade  and  L  Battery 
at  Nery,  bivouacking  between  the  widely  separated  5th  and 
4th  Divisions,  had  been  ordered  to  be  ready  to  resume  their 
march  at  4.30  a.m.,  but,  since  it  was  impossible  to  see  any- 
thing two  hundred  yards  away,  this  was  countermanded. 
The  men  were  busy  preparing  their  breakfasts  and  watering 
their  horses  when,  at  5.30  a.m.,  the  mist  being  as  thick  as 
ever,  a  patrol  of  the  11th  Hussars  returned  with  the  report 
that  it  had  ridden  into  a  body  of  German  cavalry  in  the 
fog,  and  had  been  hunted  back  to  Nery.  Immediately 
afterwards  high-explosive  shells  burst  over  the  village,  and 
there  was  a  roar  of  guns,  machine  guns  and  rifle  fire  from 
the  ground,  little  more  than  six  hundred  yards  distant, 
which  overlooks  the  eastern  side  of  the  village.  The 
horses  of  the  Bays  took  fright  and  galloped  down  the  road 
to  the  north.  The  battery  was  in  mass,  with  the  horses 
hooked  in  and  poles  down ;  men  and  horses  began  to  fall  at 
once  under  German  fire,  and  the  battery  commander  was 
knocked  over  and  temporarily  disabled  whilst  hurrying 
back  from  brigade  headquarters.  In  his  absence.  Captain 
E.  K.  Bradbury,  with  the  help  of  the  other  officers  and  of 
such  men  as  were  not  busy  with  the  horses,  unlimbered 
three  guns  and  man-handled  them  round  to  reply  to  the 
German  batteries  which  were  taking  them  in  flank.  One 
gun  was  almost  instantly  put  out  of  action  by  a  direct 
hit.  The  other  two  opened  fire,  but  had  hardly  done  so 
before  the  gun  under  Lieut.  J.  Giffard  was  silenced,  he  and 
every  man  of  his  detachment  being  killed  or  wounded. 

The  remaining  two  subalterns  now  joined  Captain 
Bradbury  at  the  third  gun,  and  immediately  afterwards 
Lieut.  J.  D.  Campbell  was  killed,  but  the  one  gun  remained 
in  action  against  the  German  twelve  with  good  effect.  In 
vain  the  enemy  concentrated  his  fire  on  it  ;  he  could  not 
silence   it.     Meantime,   the   three   cavalry   regiments   had 


N^RY  257 

manned  the  eastern  face  of  the  village,  secured  the  northern  i  Sept. 
and  southern  exits  and  opened  fire,  particularly  with  their  1914.. 
machine  guns.  The  German  cavalrymen  pushed  their 
way  dismounted  to  within  five  hundred  yards  of  the  vil- 
lage, but  no  nearer.  Towards  6  a.m.  Br.-General  Briggs, 
after  strengthening  his  own  right,  ordered  two  squadrons 
of  the  5th  Dragoon  Guards,  his  last  remaining  reserve, 
to  attack  the  enemy's  right  flank.  They  accordingly 
galloped  northwards  and  then  wheeling  to  the  east,  dis- 
mounted and  pushed  in  to  close  range.  Whilst  the  1st 
Cavalry  Brigade  was  thus  holding  the  German  4th  Cavalry 
Division,  there  came  a  response  to  Br.-General  Briggs's 
call  for  assistance.  Just  as  the  mist  began  to  thin  in  the 
morning  sun,  the  4th  Cavalry  Brigade  and  I  Battery 
arrived  on  the  scene  from  St.  Vaast  on  the  north-west, 
followed  by  a  composite  battalion  of  the  Warwickshire 
and  Dublin  Fusiliers  of  the  10th  Brigade  from  Verberie  in 
the  same  direction,  and  the  1 /Middlesex  from  Saintines 
in  the  north.  Four  guns  of  I  Battery  unlimbered  two 
thousand  yards  south-west  of  the  German  position.  As 
they  did  so,  the  fire  of  L  Battery  ceased  ;  and  for  good 
reason.  For  some  time  its  fire  had  been  desultory ; 
Lieut.  L.  F.  H.  Mundy  had  been  several  times  wounded, 
and  man  after  man  was  struck  down  until  there  only  re- 
mained Captain  Bradbury,  who  was  still  untouched,  and 
Sergt.  D.  Nelson,  who  had  been  wounded.  Battery- 
Sergeant-Major  G.  T.  Dorrell  then  joined  them,  and  at 
that  instant  Captain  Bradbury,  whilst  fetching  ammunition 
from  a  wagon  twenty  yards  off,  fell  mortally  wounded. 
The  survivors  continued  to  fire  until  the  last  round  was  ex- 
pended, and  then — but  not  till  then — L  Battery  was  silent. 

I  Battery  opened  fire  about  8  a.m.  and  speedily  silenced 
the  German  artillery,  and  the  enemy  began  to  draw  off. 
He  made  an  attempt  to  save  his  guns,  but  the  teams  were 
caught  by  I  Battery,  and  the  men  trying  to  man-handle 
the  guns  back  were  shot  down  by  machine-gun  fire  ; 
nevertheless,  four  out  of  the  twelve  were  carried  off,  only, 
as  will  be  seen,  to  fall  into  British  hands  next  day.  The 
1 /Middlesex  under  Major  F.  G.  M.  Rowley  followed  by  a 
squadron  of  the  11th  Hussars  charged  into  the  batteries, 
to  find  that  there  was  not  a  live  German  left  near  them. 
The  Hussars  thereupon  pressed  on  in  pursuit  for  a  mile 
until  they  were  recalled,  capturing  seventy-eight  prisoners 
belonging  to  every  regiment  of  the  4th  Cavalry  Division.  By 
8.45  A.M.  the  action  was  over. 

VOL.  I  s 


258  THE  RETREAT 

On  the  western  flank  of  the  force,  on  the  heights  near 
St.  Sauveur  (3^  miles  E.N.E.  of  Verberie),  the  1/East 
Lancashire  and  1 /Hampshire  of  the  11th  Brigade  had  also 
been  sharply  engaged  since  dawn  with  German  cavalry 
{2nd  Cavalry  Division).^  When  the  fighting  at  Nery  was 
over,  there  was  no  object  in  leaving  the  battalions  in  an 
exposed  position  and  they  were  withdrawn  across  the 
ravine  of  the  Autonne  through  the  1/Somerset  L.I.  and  the 
1 /Rifle  Brigade,  the  other  battalions  of  the  brigade,  which 
were  occupying  a  position  on  the  high  ground  at  Saintines 
(2  miles  east  of  Verberie). 

There  can  be  no  doubt  that  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade 
was  taken  by  surprise  ;  but  it  is  not  less  certain  that  the 
German  4th  Cavalry  Division  was  equally  unaware  of  the 
near  presence  of  a  British  force.  Indeed,  in  an  intercepted 
German  wireless  message,  it  was  reported  that  the  division 
had  been  surprised  in  its  bivouac  at  Nery  and  surrounded 
by  considerable  hostile  forces.^  Captain  Bradbury  died 
very  shortly  after  he  was  hit,  and  never  received  the 
Victoria  Cross  which  was  awarded  to  him,  to  his  gallant 
companion.  Sergeant  Nelson,  and  to  Battery-Sergeant- 
Major  Dorrell.  The  casualties  of  the  1st  Cavalry  Brigade 
did  not  exceed  one  hundred  and  thirty-five  officers  and 
men  killed  and  wounded ;  of  these,  five  officers  and  forty- 
nine  men  belonged  to  L  Battery.  Among  the  killed  was 
Lieut. -Colonel  G.  K.  Ansell  of  the  5th  Dragoon  Guards, 
who  had  already  distinguished  himself  at  Elouges.  The 
German  casualties  are  unknown.  They  can  hardly  have 
been  fewer,  and  were  probably  more  numerous,  than  the 
British. 

This  was  the  first  encounter  with  the  enemy  on  the  1st 
September.^ 

^  Poseck,  p.  77.     See  also  page  248,  f.n.  2. 

*  For  German  movements  see  Note  I.  at  end  of  Chapter. 

^  A  German  account  of  Nery  by  an  officer  of  the  18th  Dragoon  Regiment 
(of  the  4ih  Cavalry  Division)  has  appeared  in  "  Mecklenburgs  Sohne  im 
Weltkriege,"  Heft  13.  He  states  that  the  three  divisions  of  Marvvitz's 
cavalry  corps  were  sent  forward  at  4  a.m.  on  the  31st  to  reconnoitre 
towards  Paris,  and  that  his  division  marched  without  any  halt  worth 
mentioning  ;  this  agrees  with  the  statements  of  prisoners,  who  said  that 
they  had  made  a  forced  march  of  20  hours  to  get  to  Nery.  At  dawn  the 
advanced  guard  reported  a  British  bivouac  at  Nery,  and  General  von 
Garnier  at  first  ordered  the  division  to  deploy  and  charge,  but,  the  ground 
being  found  unsuitable,  this  was  changed  to  an  attack  on  foot,  wliieh 
progressed  to  within  500  yards  of  the  village.  British  reinforcements  then 
came  up  and  "  we  held  our  ground  against  greatly  superior  numbers  until 
"  2  P.M.  (sic).  We  then  had  to  withdraw  or  be  destroyed.  The  brigades 
"  were  therefore  directed  to  get  through  independently  as  best  they  could." 
Nothing  is  said  about  the  guns.     The  Dragoon  brigade  apparently  fled 


CRfiPY  EN  VALOIS  259 

The  Rear-guard  Action  of  Crepy  en  Valois 

Further  east,   about  Mermont  and  the  ground  north  i  Sept. 
of  Crepy  en  Valois,  the  outpost  line  of  the  5th  Division,    ^^i'*- 
held   by  the   13th    Brigade,   was    attacked   at   6  a.m.   by  Sketch ii. 
mounted  troops  of  the  IV.   Corps  and   by  Jager.^     The  ^^ps  4 
pressure  did  not  become  serious  until  10  a.m.,  when  the 
5th  Division,  which  had  delayed  its  march  in  consequence 
of  the  fighting  at  Nery,  began  to  retire  ;   it  then  chiefly 
affected  the  West  Kent  on  the  left  of  the  line,  where  the 
Germans  delivered  an  infantry  attack  from  Bethancourt 
(4  miles  due  north  of  Crepy).     The  West  Kent  were  sup- 
ported by  a  section  of  the  119th  Battery,  which  came  into 
action  within  one  hundred  yards  of  the  firing  line,  opened 
at  fourteen  hundred  yards'  range  and,  firing  one  hundred 
and  fifty  rounds  in  five  minutes,   brought  the  Germans 
to   a   standstill.     By   noon   the   outposts   having   become 
rear  guard  had  fallen  back  to  the  south  of  Crepy  ;    the 
Germans  did  not  follow  except  with  cavalry  patrols,  and 
all  trouble  ceased  on  this  part  of  the  line.     On  the  right 
flank,  the  2/Duke  of  Wellington's  holding  the  cross  roads 

back  into  the  forest  of  Compifegne.  After  dark  it  marched  to  the  south- 
west (through  Baron,  according  to  inhabitants)  and  hid  in  the  woods  15 
miles  south-west  of  Nery  for  30  hours.  On  the  3rd  September  it  escaped 
via  Ermenonville  back  to  Nanteuil.  The  traces  found  by  the  B.E.F.  are 
noticed  in  the  next  chapter. 

According  to  Poseck,  pp.  78,  79,  the  4th  Cavalry  Division  at  first 
withdrew  eastward,  but,  hearing  the  sound  of  firing  at  St.  Sauveur  in 
the  north  and  at  Crepy  en  Valois  to  the  east  (in  actions  described  later 
in  the  text),  decided  that  the  path  to  safety  lay  to  the  south,  and  the 
brigades  moved  independently  in  that  direction  with  the  hope  of  concealing 
themselves  in  the  forest  and  of  doubling  back  north  when  the  Allies  had 
passed.  This  they  actually  accomplished,  though  at  the  cost  of  their  re- 
maining guns  and  of  a  considerable  amount  of  transport  and  equipment. 
The  brigades  hid,  without  food  or  ammunition,  in  the  great  woods  on  either 
side  of  Roziferes  (just  north-east  of  Baron)  and  saw  the  British  columns 
march  down  the  main  road  through  Baron.  "  On  account  of  want  of 
"  ammunition,  an  attack  of  the  isolated  brigades  on  the  mmierically 
"  superior  infantry  columns  was  not  possible."  They  remained  in  hiding 
until  the  afternoon  of  the  2nd  September. 

Kluck  merely  states  that  after  a  successful  surprise  the  4th  Cavalry 
Division  became  seriously  engaged  with  superior  forces,  and  incurred  heavy 
losses.  Kuhl  ("  Marne,"  p.  121)  says  that  it  suffered  so  heavily  that  on 
the  3rd  September  it  was  not  reassembled  and  was  not  able  to  advance  on 
the  4th  with  the  rest  of  the  corps.  Altogether,  the  1st  Se[)tember  was 
decidedly  to  the  disadvantage  of  the  German  cavalry,  for,  as  will  be  seen, 
the  2nd  and  9th  Cavalry  Divisions  were  unable  to  advance,  far  less  pursue 
as  ordered  (see  page  266). 

^  According  to  Kluck,  the  IV.  Corps  was  in  action  north  of  Cr6py  en 
Valois  later  in  the  afternoon,  and  the  first  contact  was  with  the  five  Jdger 
battalions  of  Marwitz's  cavalry  corps  (Poseck,  p.  77). 


260  THE  RETREAT 

at  "  Raperie  "  (1  mile  N.N.E,  of  Crepy)  were  supported  by 
the  two  remaining  batteries  of  the  XXVII.  Brigade  R.F.A.  ; 
and  under  cover  of  these  guns  Br. -General  Cuthbert  was 
able  to  withdraw  his  battalions  with  little  difficulty. 

The  Rear-guard  Actions  of  Villers  Cotterets 

Still  further  to  the  east,  the  I.  Corps  marched  at  4  a.m. 
by  two  roads  through  the  forest  of  Villers  Cotterets,  a  large 
area  closely  planted  with  trees,  in  which  there  was  no  view 
or  field  of  fire  except  on  the  roads  and  rides  which  cross  it. 
The  1st  Division  from  Missy  took  the  Soissons  road,  which 
skirts  the  eastern  side  of  Villers  Cotterets,  and  turns  thence 
south-eastward  on  La  Ferte  Milon. 

The  2nd  Division,  on  the  west  of  the  1st,  moved  by  the 
road  which  passes  through  Vivieres  ^  and  Rond  de  la  Reine 
and  the  western  side  of  Villers  Cotterets,  south-west  upon 
Pisseleux  and  Boursonne. 

The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  covered  the  right  rear  from 
the  region  of  Montgobcrt,  and  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  the 
left  rear  from  Mortefontaine  and  Taillefontaine,  both  out- 
side the  forest. 

Here  again  it  was  the  western  flank  that  was  first 
engaged,  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  being  attacked  on  reach- 
ing Taillefontaine  (5  miles  N.N.W.  of  Villers  Cotterets)  by 
a  force  of  all  arms  advancing  from  the  north. ^  As  the 
brigade  drew  back  to  the  north-western  corner  of  the  Forest 
of  Villers  Cotterets,  the  4th  Hussars  were  continuously 
engaged  until  past  noon,  and  lost  their  commanding  officer, 
Lieut. -Colonel  I.  G.  Hogg,  in  the  sharp  fighting  in  the  wood- 
lands. 

A  little  to  the  east  of  Taillefontaine  the  4th  (Guards) 
Brigade  was  covering  the  retirement  of  the  2nd  Division, 
with  the  Irish  Guards  and  2/Coldstream,  under  Lieut. - 
Colonel  Hon.  George  Morris  of  the  former  regiment,  in 
position  between  Vivieres  and  Puisieux,  and  the  2/Grenadiers 
and  3/Coldstream  in  second  line  at  Rond  de  la  Reine. 
About  10  a.m.  Colonel  Morris's  troops  were  attacked  by  a 
force  of  all  arms  moving  from  north-west  to  south-east. 
The  9th  Battery  replied  effectively  to  the  German  guns, 
and  the  firing  so  far  died  away  that  Colonel  Morris  sent  back 
the  2/Coldstream  with  orders  to  retire  to  the  railway  north 
of  Villers  Cotterets,  and  prepared  to  follow  them  with  the 

^  Spelt  Vivders  on  some  majjs. 
2  The  advanced  guard  of  the  6th  Division. 


VILLERS  COTT^RETS  261 

Irish  Guards.  Just  then,  however,  he  received  a  verbal  i  Sept. 
order  from  the  brigadier  not  to  fall  back  too  quickly,  since  ^^^'** 
it  was  intended  to  give  the  main  body  of  the  division  a  long 
halt,  from  10  a.m.  till  1  p.m.  The  2/Coldstream,  owing  to  the 
density  of  the  forest,  were  already  gone  past  recall,  but  the 
Irish  Guards  stood  fast,  and,  about  10.45  a.m.,  were  again 
and  more  seriously  attacked.  A  company  of  the  Grenadiers 
was  sent  forward  to  reinforce  them,  but  before  the  Irish 
Guards  could  be  extricated,  the  Germans  opened  a  direct 
attack  upon  the  western  flank  and  front  of  the  second  line. 
This  line  was  drawn  up  along  a  grass  ride  which  followed 
the  highest  ridge  in  the  forest,  and  passes  from  west  to  east 
through  the  open  space  called  Rond  de  la  Reine  to  another 
open  space,  about  a  mile  distant,  named  Croix  de  Belle  Vue. 
The  3/Coldstream  were  on  the  west  of  Rond  de  la  Reine, 
being  widely  extended  so  as  to  block  the  numerous  rides 
that  run  from  north  to  south  towards  Haramont,  and 
therefore  had  wide  intervals  between  companies.  The 
2/Grenadiers  were  on  the  right.  The  Germans  soon  de- 
tected the  gaps  between  the  companies  of  the  Coldstream 
and  penetrated  between  them  ;  but  the  battalion,  though 
compelled  to  fall  back,  did  so  very  slowly,  each  isolated 
party  fighting  vigorously  as  best  it  could.  The  Grenadiers 
were  in  like  case,  and  behaved  in  like  manner,  and  both 
battalions  were  still  close  to  their  original  positions  when 
company  by  company  the  Irish  Guards  at  last  joined 
them.  Colonel  Morris  was  killed  early  in  this  the  first  serious 
engagement  of  his  regiment  ;  Br.-General  R.  Scott-Kerr 
was  severely  wounded  while  leaving  Rond  de  la  Reine, 
the  Germans  having  brought  up  a  machine  gun  which 
raked  the  broad  main  ride.  Thus  there  was  for  a  time  no 
one  in  general  command ;  but  the  three  British  battalions 
were  so  much  intermixed  and  the  fighting  in  the  woods 
was  unavoidably  so  confused,  that  little  or  no  control 
was  possible.  However,  Grenadiers,  Coldstream  and  Irish 
fought  their  way  back,  contesting  every  inch  of  ground,  to 
Villers  Cotterets,  the  3/Coldstream  retiring  on  their  second 
battalion,  which  was  now  on  the  railway  line  just  to  the 
north  of  the  town,  and  the  remainder  further  to  the  east. 
The  17th  Battery  was  in  position  north  of  Villers  Cotterets 
to  support  them,  but  did  not  fire,  the  Guards  having  beaten 
off  their  assailants  for  the  present.     It  was  by  then  about 

2  P.M. 

Meanwhile  the  6th  Brigade  had  been  halted  about  a  mile 
south  of  Pisseleux,  immediately  south  of  Villers  Cotterets, 


262  THE  RETREAT 

to  cover  the  retreat  of  the  Guards,  two  companies  of  the 
Royal  Berkshire  being  deployed  upon  either  flank  of  the 
9th  Battery.  The  5th  Brigade  had  been  ordered  by  2nd 
Division  headquarters  to  entrench  in  echelon  a  little  further 
to  the  south-west,  to  serve  as  a  rallying  point  for  both 
brigades.  Through  the  5th  Brigade  the  Guards  retired, 
with  the  2/Coldstream  as  rear  guard  ;  the  17th  Battery 
moved  with  them  and  unlimbered  on  the  right  of  the  9th. 
Towards  4  p.m.  the  Germans,  having  apparently  moved 
south-west  from  Villers  Cotterets,  opened  heavy  rifle  fire 
from  the  west  of  the  railway,  while  their  artillery  engaged 
the  British  batteries.  These  last,  after  a  sharp  duel,  were 
ordered  to  retire  ;  but  the  teams  of  the  17th  Battery  could 
not  come  up  until  the  1 /King's  had  pushed  forward  to  the 
western  side  of  the  railway  and  effectually  checked  the 
advance  of  the  German  infantry  and  artillery.  Fighting 
lasted  until  6  p.m.,  when  the  King's  withdrew,  under  cover 
of  the  2/Coldstream,  and  the  action  came  to  an  end.  The 
number  of  the  enemy  engaged  was  very  superior  to  the 
British.  The  fight  cost  the  4th  (Guards)  Brigade  over  three 
hundred  officers  and  men,  and  the  6th  Brigade  one  hundred 
and  sixty.  Two  platoons  of  the  Grenadiers  were  surrounded 
and  killed  at  Rond  de  la  Reine,  fighting  to  the  last  man. 
Some  weeks  later  it  was  ascertained  from  prisoners  that 
the  Germans  had  suffered  very  heavily  in  this  affair, 
having  lost  all  sense  of  direction  and  fired  on  each 
other. 

Sketches  During  these  clashes  of  the  rear  guards,  the  main  body 
M  *  i^*  °^  ^^^  British  Army  tramped  on  through  intense  heat  until 
^^  "  '  far  into  the  evening.  The  1st  Division  reached  its  halting 
place  about  La  Ferte  Milon,  16  miles  from  its  starting  point, 
between  7  and  9  p.m.  The  2nd  Division  and  the  3rd  and 
5th  Cavalry  Brigades  arrived  at  Betz  (8  miles  west  of  La 
Ferte  Milon),  and  the  villages  to  the  east  of  it,  after  a  nine- 
teen-mile march,  from  one  to  two  hours  later.  Of  the  II. 
Corps,  the  3rd  Division  marched  quite  untroubled  to  the 
villages  south-west  of  Betz,  while  the  5th  Division,  with 
greater  precautions,  but  equally  unhindered  after  the  first 
bickering  of  the  morning,  came  into  Nanteuil  (7  miles  west 
of  Betz)  between  7.30  and  9  p.m. 
Map  4.  On  the  extreme  west,  after  the  fight  at  Nery,  the  11th 
Brigade  as  we  have  seen  began  to  withdraw  from  St.  Sau- 
veur,  the  12th  Brigade  at  9.30  a.m.  being  already  in  position 
6  miles  south  of  St.  Sauveur  between  Mont  Cornon  and 


GENERAL  MOVEMENTS  2G3 

Chamicy.  At  10  a.m.  the  Germans  ^  attacked  the  1 /Somerset  i  Sept. 
L.I.  and  1 /Rifle  Brigade,  which  were  covering  the  retire-  ^^i^* 
ment  of  the  11th  Brigade,  but  were  beaten  off  with  con- 
siderable loss,  and  this  ended  the  British  fighting  in  this 
quarter  for  the  day.  At  11  a.m.  the  2nd  and  4th  Cavalry 
Brigades  were  sent  to  take  up  a  line  from  Mont  Cornon 
north-westwards  to  Villeneuve,  and  shortly  after  noon  the 
4th  Division,  passing  through  them,  continued  its  march 
southward  to  Fresnoy,  Rozieres  and  Baron,  to  the  west  of 
the  5th  Division.  The  Cavalry  Division  took  up  its  billets  Map  20. 
to  the  west  of  the  4th  Division  along  the  northern  edge  of 
the  Forest  of  Ermenonville  from  Fontaine  to  Mont  I'lSveque. 
The  march,  though  absolutely  unhindered  by  the  enemy, 
was  an  anxious  one,  for  there  were  persistent  rumours  that 
German  cavalry  was  in  the  Forest  of  Ermenonville  ^  to  the 
south  of  the  British  Cavalry  Division.  When  the  1 /Rifle 
Brigade  entered  Rozieres  at  7  p.m.,  they  found  that  three 
hundred  Uhlans  had  just  quitted  the  village  in  great  haste, 
leaving  a  machine  gun  and  sundry  articles  of  equipment 
behind  them.^ 

During  the  31st  August,  as  already  mentioned,  several 
telegrams  had  passed  between  the  Secretary  of  State  for 
War  and  the  British  Commander-in-Chief.  It  appeared 
to  the  Cabinet  that  Sir  John  French  had  determined  to 
retire  so  far  out  of  the  Allied  line  that  he  would  frustrate 
their  policy  of  co-operating  closely  with  the  French  and 
rendering  them  continuous  support.  The  French  President 
and  General  Joffre  also  seemed  to  be  under  this  impression.'* 

^  The  advanced  guard  of  the  //.  Corps.  Kluck  says  that  "  the  //.  Corps, 
"  supported  by  the  Cavalry  Corps,  became  involved  in  heavy  fighting  for 
"  the  possession  of  the  important  Oise  crossings  at  Verberie  and  St. 
"  Sauveur."  The  Provisional  Division  of  Sordet's  cavalry  corps  and  some 
battalions  of  Chasseurs  Alpins,  the  right  of  General  Maunoury's  Army 
which  was  also  falling  back,  were  engaged  near  Verberie. 

^  Fugitives  of  the  4th  Cavalry  Division  were  hiding  there,  as  we  have 
seen. 

'  These  troops  are  now  known  to  have  been  survivors  of  Nery.  Kluck 
says  that  the  4th  Cavalry  Division  "  incurred  heavy  losses  at  Rozieres." 

*  According  to  M.  Poincare's  preface  to  the  French  edition  of  Sir 
George  Arthur's  "  Life  of  Lord  Kitchener,"  p.  ix  : — 

"  Field-jMarshal  French  operated  with  excessive  independence,  and 
"  strove,  above  all,  to  maintain  his  divisions  intact. 

"  On  Sunday,  30th  August,  General  Joffre,  uneasy  at  seeing  French 
"  hold  himself  thus  aloof,  telephoned  to  M.  Millerand,  the  Minister  of 
"  War,  that  he  feared  the  British  were  not  for  the  moment  disposed  to 
"  fight.  .  .  .  Next  day,  Monday,  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  our  Armies 
"  sent  me  a  liaison  officer  to  beg  me  to  intervene  and  ensure  that  Field - 
"  Marshal  French  should  not  carry  out  his  retreat  too  rapidly,  and  should 
"  make  up  his  mind  to  contain  tlie  enemy  who  was  on  the  British  front." 

The  President  then  imparted  his  fears  and  the  request  of  General  Joffre 


264  THE  RETREAT 

As  it  was  difficult  to  judge  of  the  situation  in  London,  it 
was  decided  that  Lord  Kitchener  should  himself  proceed 
to  France  and  discuss  it  verbally  with  the  Commander-in- 
Chief,  so  as  to  ensure  that  there  would  be  no  break-down 
in  the  relations  between  the  chiefs  of  the  French  and  British 
Armies.  Leaving  the  choice  of  the  meeting  place  to  Sir 
John  French — who  fixed  the  British  Embassy  at  Paris — 
Lord  Kitchener  left  London  at  2  a.m.  on  the  1st  September, 
crossed  the  Channel  to  Havre  in  a  destroyer,  arrived  in 
Paris  about  3  p.m.,  met  Sir  John  shortly  after,  and  spent 
nearly  three  hours  with  him. 

The  result  of  the  interview  was  recorded  in  a  telegram 
sent  by  Lord  Kitchener  to  the  Government  at  7.30  p.m., 
before  he  started  on  his  return  journey.     It  is  as  follows  : 

"  French's  troops  are  now  engaged  in  the  fighting  line,  where 
*'  he  will  remain  conforming  to  the  movements  of  the  French 
"  army,  though  at  the  same  time  acting  with  caution  to  avoid 
"  being  in  any  way  unsupported  on  his  flanks." 

In  forwarding  a  copy  of  this  telegram  to  Sir  John 
French,  Lord  Kitchener  added  : 


(( 


"  I  feel  sure  you  will  agree  that  the  above  represents  the 
conclusions  we  came  to  ;  but,  in  any  case,  until  I  can  com- 
"  municate  with  you  further  in  answer  to  anything  you  may 
"  wish  to  tell  me,  please  consider  it  as  an  instruction. 

"  By  being  '  in  the  fighting  line  '  you  of  course  understand 
**  I  mean  dispositions  of  your  troops  in  contact  with,  though 
"  possibly  behind,  the  French  as  they  were  to-day  ;  of  course 
"  you  will  judge  as  regards  their  position  in  this  respect." 

To  this  communication  Sir  John  French  replied  on  the 
3rd  September  : 

"  I  fully  understand  your  instructions.  ...  I  am  in  full 
"  accord  with  Joffre  and  the  French." 

The  British  Commander-in-Chief,  on  returning  to  his 
headquarters  at  Dammartin,  20  miles  from  Paris,  at  6.45 
P.M.,  after  the  interview  with  Lord  Kitchener,  found  that 
the  day's  work  had  not  been  unsatisfactory  :  the  enemy 
had  been  shaken  off  after  several  sharp  actions,  and  the 
march,  though  long  and  exhausting  to  the  men,  had  finally 

to  the  British  Ambassador,  Sir  Francis  Bertie.  About  10  p.m.  Sir  Francis 
came  to  the  filysee  with  an  officer  bearing  a  written  answer  from  the 
British  Commander-in-Chief  to  Joffre's  request — "  An  answer,  unfortun- 
ately, not  very  conclusive."  (This  letter  cannot  be  found  in  the  British 
records.    Sir  John  French  in  his  "  1914,"  p.  95,  merely  says,  "  I  refused.") 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  265 

reunited  the  British  Army  for  the  first  time  since  the  I.  and  i  Sept. 
II.  Corps  had  been  separated  on  the  25th  August.  The  i^i*- 
Cavalry  Division  was  in  touch  with  the  French  cavahy 
about  Senhs,  westwards  of  which,  to  a  hne  from  Creil  to 
the  vicinity  of  Beauvais,  General  Maunoury  had  success- 
fully brought  back  the  French  Sixth  Army.  The  left  of  the 
French  Fifth  Army  was  at  Soissons  ;  as  it  had  retired  due 
south  from  Guise  and  the  British  Expeditionary  Force  had 
marched  south-west  a  day  ahead,  the  gap  between  the  two 
was  widening.  Owing  to  the  mist,  aerial  reconnaissance  Sketch  lo. 
had  been  difficult  until  the  afternoon,  but  from  3  p.m.  ^^^P  ^^' 
onward  the  Flying  Corps  sent  in  a  series  of  valuable  observa- 
tions, all  tending  to  confirm  the  previous  reports  of  a  general 
wheel  of  Kluck's  army  to  the  south-east.  German  troops 
were  thick  upon  both  banks  of  the  Oise  from  Noyon  south- 
ward to  Verberie  ;  the  greater  number  were  already  on  the 
eastern  side  of  the  river,  and  the  heads  of  heavy  columns 
had  reached  Villers  Cotterets  and  Crepy  en  Valois.  These 
seemed  to  be  wheeling  to  the  south.  It  might  be  that  this 
was  due  to  the  direction  taken  by  the  roads  at  these  two 
points,  but  it  was  judged  most  important  to  withdraw  the 
British  Army  out  of  reach  of  a  night  attack. 

Soon  after  midday  the  corps  commanders  had  been 
warned  by  the  Chief  of  the  General  Staff  that  the  retire- 
ment would  be  continued  on  the  morrow  towards  the  Marne, 
and  roads  had  been  allotted  ;  but  at  7  p.m.,  on  realizing  that 
the  enemy  was  so  near  and  in  such  force,  and  that  some  of 
his  cavalry  were  actually  behind  the  British  front.  Sir  John 
French  decided  to  continue  the  retreat  earlier  than  he  had 
intended  and  all  the  corps  were  ordered  to  get  clear  by  a 
night  march. ^  At  the  same  time,  G.H.Q.,  to  which  German 
cavalry  escaping  from  Nery  had  passed  quite  close,  com- 
menced moving  back  from  Dammartin  to  Lagny.^ 


NOTE   I 

German  Movements  on  1st  September 

General   von    Kluck,   whose   Army   was   now   again   in   contact  Sketch  10. 
with  the  British,  states  that  he  made  another  effort  on  the  1st  Sep-  Maps  4 
tember  to  catch  them  up.     Their  presence  on  his  flank  had  com-  &  20. 
pelled  him  to  desist  from  his  attempt  to  reach  and  roll  up  the  left 
flank  of  the  French  Fifth  Army,  which  had  been  noticed  by  and  had 

^  Appendix  22. 

-  Further  details  of  the  fight  at  Nery  and  the  move  of  G.H.Q.  will  be 
found  in  the  "  Journal  of  the  Royal  Artillery,"  October  1927,  pp.  307-08. 


266  THE  RETREAT 

so  alarmed  General  Lanrezac.  He  therefore  ordered  his  corps  to 
turn  south  to  settle  with  the  British.  His  IX.  Corps  (less  the  17th 
Division,  which  was  still  in  rear,  as  it  had  stayed  to  co-operate  with 
the  right  wing  of  the  Second  Army  in  the  iiattle  of  Guise),  III. 
Corps  and  IV.  Corps  having  crossed  the  Aisne  between  Ambleny  and 
Compiegne  were  to  press  southward  ;  the  //.  Corps  was  to  reach  the 
Oise  at  Verberie  ;  the  //.  Cavalry  Corps,  from  near  Compiegne,  was  to 
move  eastwards  to  attack  the  French  in  flank  via  Villers  Cotterets. 

As  a  result  of  the  day's  operations,  the  18th  Division  of  the  IX. 
Corps  reached  Longpont  (6  miles  east  of  Villers  Cotterets),  without 
anywhere  meeting  with  foes. 

The  ///.  Corps,  marching  on  two  roads  via  Vivieres  and  Taille- 
fontaine,  came  in  contact  with  the  rear  guard  of  the  British  I.  Corps 
near  Villers  Cotterets,  as  already  related,  and  halted  there  for  the 
night. 

The  IV.  Corps,  also  moving  by  two  roads,  Compiegne — Crepy 
and  Choisy — Pierrefonds,  after  a  terrific  march  of  over  thirty  miles, 
and  its  fight  with  the  5th  Division  north  of  Crepy,  halted  on  the  line 
on  which  the  action  had  been  fought.^ 

The  //.  Corps,  after  its  action  at  St.  Sauveur  with  the  4th  Divi- 
sion and  later  at  Verberie  with  the  French,  halted  at  the  latter  place 
for  the  night. 

The  IV.  Reserve  Corps,  protecting  the  right  flank,  reached  Quin- 
quempoix,  about  twenty-five  miles  south  of  Amiens. 

The  general  southward  advance  made  by  the  German  First  Army 
on  the  1st  September,  owing  to  the  opposition  with  which  it  met, 
was  under  ten  miles, ^  and  Kluck  had  not  struck  to  any  purpose  either 
the  French  Fifth  Army  or  the  B.E.F. 

The  //.  Cavalry  Corps  had  "  varving  fortunes,  and  part  of  it 
"  very  costly  fights."     (G.O.A.,  iii.  p.  'l99.) 

In  consequence  of  an  air  report  that  the  enemy  had  already 
reached  Villers  Cotterets,  General  von  der  INIarwitz  decided  not  to 
continue  the  march  of  his  corps  eastwards,  but  to  strike  south 
(G.O.A.,  iii.  p.  194).  At  4  p.m.  on  the  31st,  his  corps  then  being  on 
the  eastern  side  of  the  Forest  of  Laigue  (10  miles  south  of  Noyon), 
he  ordered  "  a  relentless  pursuit  "  that  same  night  in  the  direction 
Nanteuil  le  Haudouin  (Poseck,  p.  76),  that  is  nearly  due  south.  Led 
horses,  bridging  train  and  telegraph  vehicles  were  to  be  left  behind. 
The  9th  Cavalry  Division,  followed  by  the  2nd,  marching  on  the  main 
road  Compiegne — Verberie,  was,  however,  held  up  at  the  latter  place 
and  St.  Sauveur  east  of  it,  and  got  no  further  on  the  1st  September. 
The  4th  Cavalry  Division  moved  east  of  the  others  and  came  to 
Nery,  as  we  have  seen.  The  five  Jdgcr  battalions  of  the  corps  were 
sent  to  Crepy  en  Valois  and  fought  there. 

The  German  Oflicial  Account  admits  the  loss  of  only  one  battery 
by  the  4ih  Cavalry  Division  at  Nery  ;  it  adds  that,  after  the  fight 
"  the  division  found  itself  in  the  middle  of  the  area  through  which 
"  the  British  Army  was  retiring,  but  had  lost  all  connection  with  the 
"  corps  commander.  As  it  was  extremely  exhausted,  had  suffered 
"  heavy  losses,  and  no  command  of  it  as  a  whole  existed,  it  was  not 
"  in  a  position  to  do  the  foe  serious  harm." 

1  G.O.A.,  iii.  p.  199,  says  that  the  "  IV.  Corps  was  nowhere  in  contact 
"  with  the  enemy  "  on  1st  September,  but  Kluck,  p.  80,  mentions  the 
action. 

*  See  Kluck's  map. 


THE  ARMY  OF  PARIS  267 

The  Second  Army,  after  its  rest  day  on  the  31st,  got  on  the  move  1  Sept. 
southwards  again,  with  the  bombardment  of  the  old  fortresses  of  1914. 
La  Fere  and  Laon  in  view.  The  Army  was  entirely  out  of  touch  with 
the  French  and  a  march  behind  the  Armies  on  its  flanks.  It  proved 
that  both  fortresses  had  been  evacuated,  but  some  time  was  lost  over 
reconnaissance,  and  about  1.30  p.m.  General  von  Bulow  heard  by 
wireless  from  the  Supreme  Command  that  the  "  Third,  Fourth  and 
"  Fifth  Armies  were  seriously  engaged  against  superior  forces."  He 
therefore  wheeled  the  two  corps  of  his  left  wing  south-eastwards  to 
bring  assistance  to  the  Third  Army,  only  to  hear  at  5.45  p.m.  that 
the  French  in  front  of  it  were  retiring.  An  aeroplane  reconnaissance 
towards  evening  confirmed  that  the  retreat  of  the  French  was  con- 
tinuing. The  general  southward  advance  of  the  Second  Army  was 
under  ten  miles. 

NOTE  II 

The  Army  of  Paris  ^ 

On  the  25th  August  the  Minister  of  War  had  given  General 
Joffre  an  order  that,  should  his  forces  be  compelled  to  retreat,  he 
should  direct  an  Army  of  at  least  three  corps  on  Paris  to  ensure 
its  protection.  On  the  1st  September  the  French  Commander-in- 
Chief  began  to  take  measures  to  comply  with  this  order  and  to  re- 
inforce the  garrison.  Being  unable  to  detail  a  corps  of  the  Fifth  Army, 
as  he  first  proposed,  owing  to  its  being  nearest  the  enemy,  he  directed 
the  Third  Army  to  supply  one,  and  General  Sarrail  nominated  the 
IV.  Corps,  which  had  been  heavily  engaged  in  the  Ardennes,  where 
its  two  divisions  had  suffered  disastrous  losses  in  the  Battles  of 
Ethe  and  Virton,  respectively.  To  make  up  the  balance,  on  the 
same  day  Joffre  decided  to  incorporate  the  Sixth  Army  (then  consist- 
ing of  the  14th  and  the  63rd  Reserve  Divisions,  called  the  VII.  Corps, 
and  Lamaze's  Group  of  the  55th  and  56th  Reserve  Divisions)  in 
the  Garrison  of  Paris.  "  He  considered  that  the  Reserve  divisions 
"  which  it  comprised  would  be  very  good  behind  entrenchments, 
"  and  might  constitute  the  garrison  of  the  works,  whilst  the  Active 
"  corps  [actually  containing  only  one  Active  division  !]  would  furnish 
"  the  mobile  defence  and  might  be  called  upon  to  take  part  in 
"  operations."  General  GaUieni,  the  Military  Governor  of  Paris, 
was  informed  of  this  increase  of  his  forces  by  telephone  at  6.35  p.m., 
General  Joffre  having  earlier  in  the  day  advised  the  Government  to 
leave  Paris,  which  they  did  on  the  2nd  September. 

1  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  pp.  529-31. 


CHAPTER  XIII 

THE    LAST    STAGES    OF    THE    RETREAT 
2ND-5TH    SEPTEMBER 

(Sketches  A,  1,  9,  10,  11  &  12 ;  Maps  2,  4,  21,  22,  23  &  24) 

Sketches  The  Army  was  growing  hardened  to  continued  retirements  ; 
9  &  10.  but  in  the  I.  Corps,  to  make  the  conditions  easier  for  the 
&2T.  ^  men,  General  Haig  on  the  1st  September  decided  to  send 
off  by  train  from  Villers  Cotterets  about  half  of  the  am- 
munition carried  by  his  divisional  ammunition  columns, 
and  to  use  the  fifty  wagons  thus  released  to  carry  kits  and 
exhausted  soldiers.  This  was  an  extreme  measure,  taken 
only  after  mature  deliberation,  but  it  was  more  than 
justified  by  the  result. 

The  next  day  in  pursuance  of  Sir  John  French's  orders, 
the  divisions  began  moving  back  between  1  a.m.  and  3  a.m. 
from  their  billets  between  La  Ferte  Milon  and  Senlis  to  the 
line  of  villages  between  Meaux  and  Dammartin,  a  march 
of  some  twelve  miles.  The  I.  Corps  was  on  the  right  or 
east,  the  II.  Corps  in  the  centre  and  the  III.  Corps  on  the 
left,  with  the  cavalry  on  either  flank  of  the  force.  It  was 
practically  unmolested  during  this  move.  The  5th  Cavalry 
Brigade,  on  the  eastern  flank,  heard  news  of  a  German 
squadron  moving  from  Villers  Cotterets  upon  La  Ferte 
Milon,  but  saw  nothing.  The  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  on  the 
west  of  the  5th,  had  been  in  motion  for  fully  six  hours  and 
was  well  south  of  Betz  before  German  shells  began  to  burst 
over  the  extreme  tail  of  the  rear  guard.  An  hour  or  so  later 
six  or  eight  German  squadrons  were  seen  approaching 
Bouillancy,  the  next  village  south  of  Betz,  but  were  driven 
off  by  the  fire  of  D  and  E  Batteries.  The  brigade,  being  no 
further  troubled,  then  retired  slowly  to  Isles  les  Villenoy 
behind  the  right  of  the  I.  Corps,  where  it  arrived  late  in 
the  evening. 

268 


RETIREMENT  TO  MEAUX— DAMMARTIN    269 

The  three  brigades  of  the  Cavalry  Division  on  the  left  2  Sept. 
had  been  disturbed  on  the  night  of  the  lst/2nd  September  ^^i"*- 
by  more  than  one  report  that  the  whole  or  parts  of  the 
German  4th  Cavalry  Division  were  moving  south  through 
the  Forest  of  Ermenonville  behind  the  British  left  flank  ; 
and  at  2  a.m.  the  2nd  Cavalry  Brigade,  on  the  extreme  left, 
had  been  ordered  to  march  at  once  from  Mont  I'fiveque 
to  clear  the  defile  through  the  forest  for  the  division.  The 
brigade  moved  off  at  2.30  a.m.,  taking  the  road  through 
the  forest  towards  Ermenonville.  On  debouching  from  the 
south-eastern  edge  it  found  the  road  littered  with  saddles, 
equipment  and  clothing.  Some  enemy  force  had  evidently 
been  in  bivouac  there  and  had  hastily  decamped.  Reports 
came  in  from  inhabitants  that  two  squadrons  of  Uhlans 
were  at  Ermenonville  and  the  next  village  east  of  it ;  but 
the  British  were  too  late  to  intercept  them.  The  enemy 
had  withdrawn  rapidly,  and  in  the  wooded  country  it  was 
useless  to  pursue  him.  Before  reaching  Ermenonville  the 
brigade  came  across  some  motor  lorries  of  the  4th  Division 
Ammunition  Column,  which  had  run  into  a  party  of  German 
cavalry  during  the  night,  and  also  four  abandoned  German 
guns,  the  marks  upon  which  proved  that  they  were  part  of 
the  batteries  that  had  been  in  action  at  Nery.^  It  may  be 
stated  here  that,  except  for  skirmishes  of  cavalry  patrols, 
there  was  no  further  contact  with  the  enemy  during  the 
rest  of  the  retreat. 

Though  the  march  of  the  British  force  this  day  was 
only  a  short  one,  averaging  about  twelve  miles,  and  the 
leading  units  got  in  early,  it  was  evening  before  all  were 
in  their  billets.  The  heat  of  the  day  was  intense  and 
suffocating,  and  made  marching  so  exhausting  that  several 
long  halts  were  ordered.  In  spite  of  these,  there  were 
some  cases  of  heat-stroke. 

The  march  of  the  I.  Corps  proved  specially  trying, 
since  the  valley  of  the  Ourcq,  for  the  first  half  of  the  way, 
formed  an  almost  continuous  defile.  During  the  passage 
of  this  region,  the  divisions  were  directed  to  piquet  the 
high  ground  as  in  mountain  warfare.  The  movement  pre- 
sented a  fine  opportunity  to  a  really  active  and  enter- 
prising enemy,  but  no  such  enemy  appeared. 

An  inhabitant  of  the  district  has  put  on  record  the 
appearance  of  the  British  during  this  period  of  the  retreat  : 

"  The  soldiers,  phlegmatic  and  stolid,  march  without  appear- 
"  ing  to  hurry  themselves  ;    their  calm  is  in  striking  contrast 
^  The  guns  were  destroyed  by  gun-cotton  charges. 


270  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

"  to  the  confusion  of  the  refugees.  They  pass  a  night  in  the 
"  villages  of  the  Ourcq.  It  is  a  pacific  invasion  ...  as  sports- 
"  men  who  have  just  returned  from  a  successful  raid,  our  brave 
"  English  eat  with  good  appetite,  drink  solidly,  and  pay  royally 
"  those  who  present  their  bills  ;  .  .  .  and  depart  at  daybreak, 
"  silently  like  ghosts,  on  the  whistle  of  the  officer  in  charge."  ^ 


^  ^  g  The   position    of  the   Army   at   nightfall   on   the   2nd 


Sketches 

Map  21.  September  was  as  follows 

I  Corps  '^  (^^  *^^  villages  just  north  of  Meaux. 

3rd  Cavalry  Brigade     .    Isles  les  Villenoy,  S.S.W.  of  Meaux. 

II.  Corps         .        .        .In     the     area     Monthyon — Montge — 

Villeroy. 

III.  Corps       .        .        .    Eve — Dammartin. 

Cavalry  Division  .        .    In  the  area  Thieux — Moussy  le  Vieux 

— Le  Mesnil  Amelot. 

Roughly  speaking,  therefore,  its  front  extended  from 
Meaux  north-west  to  Dammartin.  From  Dammartin  the 
French  Provisional  Cavalry  Division  ^  prolonged  the  line 
to  Senlis,  from  which  point  north-westward  through  Creil 
to  Mouy  and  beyond  it  lay  General  Maunoury's  Sixth 
Army,  which  had  been  able  to  withdraw  without  serious 
interference  by  the  enemy.  On  the  right  of  the  British 
the  French  Fifth  Army  was  still  a  good  march  north 
of  them,  with  the  left  of  its  infantry  south-west  of  Fere 
en  Tardenois,  some  twenty-five  miles  away;  but  General 
Joffre  had  issued  orders  for  Conneau's  newly  formed 
cavalry  corps  (8th  and  10th  Cavalry  Divisions  and  an 
infantry  regiment),  which  was  a  few  miles  nearer,  to  get  in 
touch  with  the  British  next  day,  and  fill  the  gap  between 
them  and  the  Fifth  Army. 
Map  4.  The  2nd  September  had  thus  passed  more  or  less  un- 
eventfully for  the  troops,  but  aerial  reconnaissance  con- 
firmed interesting  changes  on  the  side  of  the  enemy,  which 
had  been  suspected  on  the  previous  day.  His  general 
march  south-eastward  seemed  for  the  time  to  have  come 
to  an  end,  and  to  have  given  place  to  a  southerly  move- 
ment. The  general  front  of  Kluck's  Army  was  covered  by 
cavalry  from  Villers  Cotterets  through  Crepy  en  Valois  and 
Villeneuve  to   Clermont.^     Behind  it  from   east  to  west 

^  "  Les  Champs  de  I'Ourcq,  September  1914."     By  J.  Roussel-L^pine. 

*  Formed  temporarily  from  the  fittest  units  of  Sordet's  cavalry  corps. 

*  The  II.  Cavalry  Corps  was,  according  to  Kluck,  in  line  between  the 

IV.  and  II.  Corps,  so  part  of  the  covering  cavalry  was  divisional. 


GERMAN  MOVEMENTS  271 

opposite  the  British  were  the  ///.,  IV.  and  //.  Corps,  and  2  Sept. 
there  were  indications  that  the  heads  of  the  columns  were  1914. 
halting  to  allow  the  rear  to  close  up,  as  if  apprehensive  of 
danger  from  the  south.  The  IV.  Reserve  Corps  was  to  the 
right  rear  north-west  of  Clermont  about  St.  Just,  and  the 
IX.  Corps  was  east  of  Villers  Cotterets,  on  the  same  align- 
ment as  the  cavalry.  Up  to  4  p.m.  no  hostile  troops  of  any 
kind  had  passed  a  line,  about  ten  to  twelve  miles  away, 
drawn  from  Marcuil  (at  the  junction  of  the  Clignon  with 
the  Ourcq)  westward  through  Betz  to  Nanteuil  le  Haudouin. 
In  fact,  it  seemed  as  though  Kluck  had  not  foreseen  any 
such  collision  with  the  British  as  had  taken  place  on  the  1st. 
Possibly  he  believed  them  to  have  moved  south-eastward, 
and  such,  indeed,  had  been  their  direction  on  the  30th, 
though  on  the  31st  it  had  been  changed  to  south-west  to 
leave  more  space  for  the  retreat  of  the  French  Fifth  Army. 
Moreover,  but  for  the  exhaustion  which  prevented  the  right 
and  centre  of  the  British  Army  from  reaching  the  halting- 
places  ordered  for  the  evening  of  the  31st,  it  is  probable 
that  there  would  have  been  no  serious  collision  at  all 
between  the  British  and  the  Germans  on  the  1st  September, 
but  that  the  Germans  would  have  merely  brushed  against 
the  British  rear  guards,  reported  the  main  body  to  be  still 
in  retreat,  and  continued  their  south-easterly  march  to  take 
the  French  Fifth  Army  in  flank.  Events,  however,  having  sketch  la 
fallen  out  as  they  did,  Kluck  had  made  one  further  attempt  Map  21. 
to  cut  off  the  British.  Meanwhile  on  his  left  Biilow  was 
pressing  forward  against  the  French  Fifth  Army  and  had, 
with  his  main  body,  reached  the  line  of  the  Aisne  from 
Pontavert  (14  miles  north-west  of  Reims)  to  Soissons,  the 
head  of  his  advance  being  on  the  Vesle,  On  his  front,  the 
Fifth  Army  had  fallen  back  to  the  line  Reims — Fere  en 
Tardenois. 

Whilst  in  Paris  on  the  1st  September,  Sir  John  French  Map  4. 
made  a  proposal  to  the  French  Minister  of  War  to  organize 
a  line  of  defence  on  the  Marne  and  there  stand  the  attack 
of  the  enemy.  This  was  rejected  on  the  2nd  by  General 
Joffre,  mainly,  apparently,  on  account  of  the  position  of 
the  Fifth  Army,  which  on  that  date  was  close  to  the  Marne 
with  the  enemy  near  at  hand.  He  added  :  "I  consider 
"  that  the  co-operation  of  the  British  Army  in  the  defence 
"  of  Paris  is  the  only  co-operation  which  can  give  useful 
"  results,"  and  suggested  that  it  "  should  first  hold  the  line 
"  of  the  Marne,  and  then  retire  to  the  left  bank  of  the 
"  Seine,  which  it  should  hold  from  Melun  to  Juvisy  [20 


272  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

"  miles  below  Melim  and  just  outside  the  perimeter  of  the 
"  entrenched  camp  of  Paris]."  Late  in  the  evening,  his 
"  Instruction  Generale  No.  4,"  which  forecast  a  retreat 
Sketch  behind  the  Seine,  reached  Sir  John  French.^  Issued  at 
12a.  2  P.M.  on  the  1st  September,  it  fixed  as  the  limit  of  the 
retirement  the  line  "  north  of  Bar  le  Due — behind  the 
"  Ornain,  east  of  Vitry  le  Frangois  " — "  behind  the  Aube, 
"  south  of  Arcis  sur  Aube,  behind  the  Seine  south  of  Nogent 
"  sur  Seine."  The  Field-Marshal  therefore  gave  orders  ^ 
for  the  Marne  to  be  crossed  on  the  3rd — as  did  General 
Lanrezac  also  to  his  Army — and  for  the  retreat  of  the 
British  Army  to  be  resumed  in  a  south-easterly  direction  ; 
for  its  continuance  in  a  south-westerly  direction  would  have 
brought  it  inside  the  perimeter  of  the  entrenched  camp  of 
Paris,  besides  tending  to  increase  the  gap  between  its  right 
and  the  left  of  the  Fifth  Army.  Since  this  movement  was 
in  the  nature  of  a  flank  march  across  the  enemy's  front — 
although  it  turned  out  that  his  columns  were  marching 
practically  parallel  to  the  British — it  was  necessary  to 
make  arrangements  to  keep  the  Germans  off  the  high 
ground  on  the  north  bank  of  the  Marne  during  its  execution. 
Early  in  the  morning  of  the  3rd  September,  therefore, 
the  5th  and  3rd  Cavalry  Brigades  were  thrown  out  to  an 
east  and  west  line  north-eastwards  of  Meaux ;  the  former, 
which  was  supported  by  a  battalion  and  a  battery,  cover- 
ing the  loop  of  the  Marne  from  St.  Aulde  westwards  to 
Lizy  sur  Ourcq,  and  the  latter  the  ground  thence  west- 
wards to  Barcy.  German  cavalry  patrols  appeared  on  the 
front  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  between  8  and  9  a.m.,  but 
did  not  approach  closely,  and  at  10.30  a.m.  the  brigade 
crossed  the  Marne  at  Germigny,  behind  the  centre  of  its 
sector,  and  then  moving  south-eastwards  behind  its  sister 
brigade,  fell  into  the  main  road  at  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre 
at  noon.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  was  not  troubled  until 
4  P.M.,  when  a  hostile  column,  which  included  four  batteries, 
appeared  at  May  en  Multien,  due  north  of  Lizy  on  the 
western  bank  of  the  Ourcq.  There  was  some  exchange 
of  rifle  and  artillery  fire  as  Br. -General  Chetwode  slowly 
withdrew  eastwards,  but  the  Germans  were  evidently 
content  to  see  him  go,  for  they  did  not  follow,  but  took  up 
billets  quietly  on  the  western  bank  of  the  Ourcq  from  Lizy 
northwards.  The  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  then  crossed  the 
Marne  at  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  and  reached  its  billets  at 
7  P.M.,  having  had  no  more  than  five  casualties. 

^  Appendix  23.     See  Sketch  9.  *  Appendix  24. 


RETIREMENT  ACROSS  THE  MARNE         273 

Meanwhile,  having  started  between  3  and  4  a.m.,  the  3  Sept. 
1st  Division  had  crossed  the  Marne  at  Trilport,  the  2nd  and    i^^"*- 
3rd  at  Meaux,  the  5th  at  Isles  les  Villenoy,  the  4th  at  Sketch  9 
Lagny    and    the    Cavalry    Division    at    Gournay.     Under  Map  22. 
authority  from  General  Joffre,  they  or  the  Freneh  blew 
up  all  the  bridges  behind  them  as  they  moved  south-east/ 
and  by  evening  the  B.E.F.  was  distributed  along  a  line  south 
of  the  Marne  from  Jouarre  westward  to  Nogent,  I,  Corps 
patrols  being  again  in  touch  with  troops  of  the  French  Fifth 
Army  which  was  also  south  of  the  Marne.    The  Sixth  Army, 
north  of  the  Marne,  slightly  overlapped  the  British  left. 

This  march  too  had  proved  a  trying  one  ;  it  was  long 
in  point  of  time  as  well  as  distance,  for  the  roads  were 
crowded  with  vehicles  of  refugees,  and  some  units  were 
as  much  as  eighteen  hours  on  the  road. 

During  the  morning  Sir  John  French  learnt  from  a 
Note  issued  by  G.Q.G.  at  9.30  p.m.  on  the  2nd,  but  which 
did  not  reach  British  G.H.Q.  and  other  recipients  until  the 
3rd,  that  General  Joffre  had  slightly  changed  his  plans 
from  those  announced  in  "  Instruction  Generale  No.  4."  Sketch 
He  now  proposed  to  establish  the  whole  of  his  forces  on  i^"^- 
a  general  line  marked  by  Pont  sur  Yonne — Nogent  sur 
Seine — Arcis  sur  Aube — Brienne  le  Chateau — Joinville, 
that  is  to  withdraw  his  flanks  further  than  originally  stated, 
and  then  pass  to  the  offensive,  whilst  simultaneously  the 
garrison  of  Paris  acted  in  the  direction  of  Meaux. 

Aerial  reconnaissance  on  this  day  established  the  fact 
that  Kluck  had  resumed  his  south-eastward  movement 
with  rapidity  and  vigour  :  the  German  columns  which 
had  been  following  the  British  southwards  had  turned  off 
and  were  now  making  their  way  eastwards  and  south- 
eastwards  to  the  passages  of  the  Ourcq.  Unfortunately 
there  are  no  British  air  reports  after  2.50  p.m.  to  be  found  ; 
but  at  5  P.M.  G.H.Q.  informed  General  Joffre  and  General 
Lanrezac  that  there  did  not  appear  to  be  any  enemy  forces 
left  on  the  British  front,  and  that  the  whole  of  the  German 
First  Ai'TJiy  was  about  to  cross  the  Marne  between  Chateau 
Thierry  and  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  to  attack  the  left  of  the 
Fifth  Army.  Between  8.20  and  8.40  p.m.  a  more  detailed 
message  was  telephoned  by  Colonel  Huguet,  on  behalf  of 
G.H.Q.,  to  G.Q.G.,  the  Fifth  Army  and  the  Military 
Governor  of  Paris  : — 

^  The  first  troops  of  the  4th  Division  which  arrived  at  Lagny  found 
French  engineers  about  to  blow  up  the  bridges  there  ;  only  with  difficulty 
was  a  postponement  obtained. 

VOL.  I  T 


274  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

"  It  results  from  very  reliable  reports  from  British  air- 
"  men,  all  of  which  agree,  that  the  whole  of  the  German 
"  First  Ar77iy  except  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  [that  is  to  say, 
"  the  //.,  ///.  and  IV.  Corps  and  18th  Division]  are 
"  moving  south-east  to  cross  the  Marne  between  Chateau 
"  Thierry  and  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre,  and  attack  the  left 
"  of  the  Fifth  Army.  The  heads  of  the  columns  will  with- 
"  out  doubt  reach  the  Marne  this  evening." 

At  the  same  time  an  officer  was  sent  to  General 
Lanrezac's  headquarters  at  Sezanne  with  a  map  exactly 
showing  the  situation. 

The  British  air  reports  were  confirmed  by  those  of  an 
aviator  sent  out  by  the  French  Sixth  Army,  who  reported, 
between  7.30  and  8.30  p.m.,^  the  movements  of  columns 
(//.  Corps)  from  Senlis  south  -  eastwards  on  the  Sixth 
Army  front,  and  a  very  long  column  {8th  Division)  moving 
south-east  with  its  head  at  6  p.m.  at  Etrepilly  (close  to 
Lizy  on  the  Ourcq).  Nothing  could  be  seen  of  the  IV. 
Reserve  Corps,  which  had  been  marked  down  near  Clermont 
on  the  previous  evening. 

Opposite  the  Fifth  Army  the  German  columns  were 
still  marching  southwards.  By  11  a.m.  the  head  of  the 
German  IX.  Corps  had  already  passed  the  Marne  and 
had  a  sharp  engagement  with  the  French  at  Chateau 
Thierry,  15  miles  north-east  of  the  British  right.  Later 
another  column  of  this  corps  crossed  at  Chezy  (below 
Chateau  Thierry),  and  at  6  p.m.  the  head  of  a  column 
{13th  Division)  was  reported  at  Mezy  (6  miles  above 
Chateau  Thierry). 

There  are  no  reports,  from  either  French  or  British 
sources,  of  the  Germans  on  the  3rd  reaching  the  Marne 
between  Chezy  and  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  (exclusive). 
The  gap  there  between  the  French  Fifth  Army  and  British 
does  not  appear  to  have  been  watched  except  by  a  party  of 
French  cavalry  at  the  bridge  of  Nogent,  which  cleared  off 
on  the  approach  of  German  cyclists.^  It  is  now  known 
from  German  sources  that  Kluck's  divisions,  by  making 
marches  of  25-28  miles,  secured  all  the  bridges  in  this 
sector  by  midnight. ^     Fortunately  one  and  all  arrived  too 

1  The  British  reports  reached  the  Sixth  Army  "early  in  the  afternoon" 
and  were  confirmed  "several  hours  later."     (F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  p.  618.) 

2  "  Regt.  No.  24,"  p.  47. 

'  The  heads  of  the  divisions  of  the  III.  Corps  reached  the  bridges  at 
Nogent,  Saulchery,  Charly  and  Nanteuil  between  8  and  9  p.m.,  and  estab- 
lished outposts  on  the  heights  beyond  them.  Of  the  Il\  Corps  on  the 
night  of  the  3rd/4th  the  German  Official  Account  (iii.  p.  23G)  states  that 


RETIREMENT  FROM  THE  MARNE  275 

late  at  the  river,  for  the  whole  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  3  Sept. 
was  by  that  time  safely  across  the  Marne,  and  its  left   i^^'*- 
had   fallen   back  after  a   fight   at   Chateau   Thierry,   and 
was  now  in  line  with  the  British  though  still  separated 
by  a  gap  of  about  ten  miles. 

At  4.35  P.M.  the  British  Commander-in-Chief,  certain 
from  the  air  information  that  Kluck  was  moving  from  west 
to  east  and  intended  no  immediate  action  against  him, 
warned  his  corps  commanders  that,  unless  the  situation 
changed,  the  troops  w^ould  remain  in  their  present  billets, 
and  would  probably  have  complete  rest  next  day.  During 
the  evening,  however,  Sir  John  became  alarmed  by  possi- 
bilities of  the  situation  should  the  Germans  press  into  the 
gap  between  the  B.E.F.  and  the  Fifth  Army,  and  at  11.50 
P.M.  he  issued  orders  ^  for  the  remaining  bridges  over  the 
Marne  in  the  British  area  to  be  destroyed  and  for  the 
Force  to  be  prepared  on  receipt  of  a  further  order  to 
continue  its  retreat  southward.  If  he  fell  back  it  was  his 
intention  to  bring  the  whole  B.E.F.  behind  the  Grand 
Morin,  and,  as  a  preliminary,  to  swing  back  the  right  or 
eastern  flank.  The  I.  Corps,  therefore,  was  to  move  first, 
through  Coulommiers,  with  the  3rd  and  5th  Cavalry 
Brigades  pushed  out  to  the  east,  in  order  to  protect  its 
flank  and  to  gain  contact  with  Conneau's  cavalry  corps, 
which  was  reported  to  be  at  Rebais,  7  miles  away.  The 
II.  and  III.  Corps  and  Cavalry  Division  were  to  stand 
fast  until  the  I.  Corps  had  reached  the  Grand  Morin,  and 
then  fall  back  in  line  wdth  it.  Every  precaution  was  to  be 
taken  to  conceal  the  billets  of  the  troops  from  aircraft. 
The  movements  of  the  British  Army  during  the  past  few 
days  had  already  misled  the  enemy  once  and,  if  its  where- 
abouts could  now  be  hidden,  might  mislead  him  again. ^ 

it  "reached  the  region  of  Crouy"  (10  miles  north  of  Lizy) ;  Kluck's  map, 
on  the  other  hand,  shows  its  Une  estabHshed  south  of  the  Marne.  Neither 
location  is  correct.  An  examination  of  the  histories  of  the  eight  infantry- 
regiments  of  the  corps  reveals  that  only  one  of  them,  the  66th  {7th  Division) 
crossed  the  jNIarne  on  the  3rd,  at  Saacy,  arriving  at  midnight,  and  billeting 
there  and  in  the  adjoining  village  of  Citry.  All  the  others  in  this  division 
marched  until  midnight  in  clear  moonlight,  halting,  the  26th  at  Mery  (on 
the  north  bank  of  the  Marne  opposite  Saacy),  the  27th  and  165th  at  Dhuisy 
(6  miles  N.N.W.  of  Saacy).  In  the  8th  Division,  the  93rd  and  153rd  reached 
St.  Aulde  (on  the  Marne  N.N.E.  of  La  Ferte)  at  2  a.m.  and  midnight, 
respectively  ;  and  the  36th  and  72nd  halted  at  two  small  villages,  Rouget 
and  Avernes  (both  3  miles  to  the  northward  of  La  Fertc)  at  2  a.m.  and 
10  P.M.,  respectively. 

^  Appendix  25. 

^  In  this,  according  to  Kluck,  the  II.  and  III.  Corps  were  successful  ; 
the  march  and  bivouacs  of  the  I.  Corps  only  were  observed. 


276  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

Map  4.  Accordingly,  on  the  4th,  soon  after  daybreak,  the  5th 
Cavalry  Brigade,  with  the  3rd  in  support,  advanced  east- 
ward to  Doue,  midway  between  the  two  Morins,  and  sent 
patrols  forward  along  both  banks  of  the  Petit  Morin.  At 
the  same  time  it  despatched  the  Scots  Greys  to  the  east 
towards  Rcbais  there  to  meet  the  French  cavalry.  At 
8  A.M.  the  patrols  reported  a  hostile  column  of  all  arms 
moving  south-east  along  the  main  road  north  of  the  Petit 
Morin  from  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  to  Montmirail,  but 
evidently  there  were  parties  of  the  enemy  south  of  the 
valley,  for  a  troop  of  the  Greys  found  Germans  at  Rebais, 
and  had  such  sharp  fighting  that  only  five  of  its  men 
escaped.  At  11.45  a.m.  a  column  of  cavalry  with  guns 
and  three  battalions  of  infantry — evidently  a  flank  guard — 
were  seen  moving  south-east  on  the  heights  between  the 
Montmirail  road  and  the  Petit  Morin,  from  Boitron  upon 
Sablonnieres  ;  some  of  them,  crossing  the  stream,  attacked 
an  advanced  party  of  the  5th  Cavalry  Brigade  about  a 
mile  east  of  Doue,  but  without  success.  The  enemy  seems 
then  to  have  decided  that  it  was  time  to  thrust  back  this 
prying  English  cavalry,  and  manoeuvred  to  turn  Br.- 
General  Chetwode's  position  from  the  south  ;  but  when 
he  fell  back  under  cover  of  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  and 
the  Germans  occupied  his  ground  about  Doue,  they  were 
at  once  engaged  by  E  Battery,  which  disabled  one  of  the 
German  guns  and  did  considerable  damage  among  the 
gun  teams.  At  6  p.m.  Br.-General  Gough  in  turn  with- 
drew the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade,  protected  by  the  fire  of 
the  113th  and  114th  Batteries,  and  by  the  2nd  Brigade, 
which  was  in  position  about  Aulnoy.  He  then  crossed 
the  Grand  Morin  at  Coulommiers,  and  made  for  Chailly, 
a  little  to  the  south-east. 

Meanwhile,  by  General  Haig's  orders,  the  1st  Division 
had  at  4  a.m.  been  withdrawn  into  reserve  and  relieved  in 
the  duty  of  observation  over  the  front  from  La  Ferte  to 
Sammeron  (3  miles  west  of  La  Ferte)  by  the  2nd  Division. 
There  was  some  expectation  of  fighting  ;  for,  although  the 
bridges  at  Sammeron  and  St.  Jean  had  been  blown  up, 
one  of  the  two  bridges  at  La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  owing  to 
lack  of  time  had  not  been  thoroughly  destroyed.^     About 

^  The  four  bridges  had  been  dealt  with  by  the  23rd  and  2Gth  Field 
Companies  R.E.  The  demolition  of  the  stone-arched  bridge  at  La  Ferte 
was  successful  ;  the  second  was  a  six-arched  steel  girder  bridge,  and  the 
girders  were  cut  through  ;  but  the  ends  remained  as  cantilevers,  and  the 
gaps  could  be  crossed  by  laying  a  few  planks.  There  was  no  time  to  place 
heavy  charges  to  complete  the  demolition. 


RETIREMENT  TOWARDS  THE  SEINE        277 

8  A.M.  indeed  a  German  battalion  crossed  the  river  by  this  4  Sept. 
bridge/  but  it  did  not  immediately  press  on,  and  the  1st  ^^^*- 
Division,    pursuing    its    march    methodically,    halted    at  Sketch  9. 
Aulnoy  and  Coulommiers.     During  the  afternoon  Sir  John  ^^^P  ^3. 
French  visited  I.   Corps  headquarters  and  gave  General 
Haig  orders  to  withdraw  —  thus  for  the  second  time  pre- 
venting him  from  fighting.     The  2nd  Division,  which  at 
4  P.M.  began  to  fall  back  by  brigades  in  succession  to  the 
west  of  the  1st  Division,  upon  Mouroux  and  Giremoutiers, 
was  followed  only  by  a  few  cavalry  patrols.     The  II.  and 
III.  Corps  and  Cavalry  Division  actually  enjoyed  a  day  of 
rest   on  the  4th   until   after  dark,  when  they  too  moved 
off  south  through  the  night,  as  will  be  related.     For  the 
moment  the  Army  was  concentrated  on  the  Grand  Morin. 

The  information  obtained  by  the  Flying  Corps  on  this 
day  was  particularly  full  and  complete.  The  early  (6  to 
7  A.M.)  reports  gave  the  bivouacs  of  all  the  corps  of  the 
Gea-man  First  Army  except  the  IV.  Reserve.  The  later 
reports  established  the  continued  march,  from  the  front 
Chateau  Thierry — La  Ferte  sous  Jouarre  south-eastwards 
across  the  Marne  towards  the  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army 
and  Conneau's  cavalry  corps,  of  the  IX.,  III.  and  IV. 
Corps.  About  4.30  p.m.  two  columns  of  cavalry  were  seen 
moving  southwards  towards  the  1st  Division  at  Aulnoy 
and  Coulommiers,  and  some  shelling  was  observed.^  From 
the  Governor  of  Paris  came  information  that  the  //.  Corps 
was  moving  on  Meaux  and  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  on  Betz 
and  Nanteuil.  General  Franchet  d'Esperey,  who  had 
taken  over  command  of  the  Fifth  Army  from  General 
Lanrezac  ^  the  previous  day,  continued  the  withdrawal  of 
his  troops,  swinging  back  his  left  to  meet  the  German 
threat  against  his  flank. 

It  may  be  noted  that  on  this  day  the  French  Ninth 
Army,  under  General  Foch,  came  into  existence  between 
the  Fourth  and  Fifth  Armies.  It  was  organized,  merely 
for  convenience  of  command,  from  the  left  of  the  Fourth 
Army,  and  its  formation  did  not,  therefore,  affect  the 
general  situation.'* 

1  The  German  IV.  Corps  and  II.  Cavalry  Corps  crossed  at  La  Fert6 
sous  Jouarre. 

2  This  was  the  action  of  the  3rd  and  5th  Cavalry  Brigades. 

^  For  an  account  of  his  sudden  removal,  see  his  book,  "  Le  Plan  de 
Cam[)agne  fran^ais  et  le  premier  mois  de  la  Guerre,"  p.  276  et  seq. 

*  The  French  Ninth  Army  came  officially  into  existence  as  an  inde- 
pendent command  at  11  p.m.  on  the  4th  September.  It  had  actually  been 
formed  on  the  29th  August  as  a  ''  Detachement  d'Armee."     It  consisted 


278  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

Sketch  During  the  afternoon  of  the  4th  September,  also, 
12  A.  General  Gailieni,  the  recently  appointed  Military  Governor 
of  Paris,  under  whose  direct  orders  the  French  Sixth  Army 
had  been  acting  since  the  1st  September  "in  the  interests 
of  the  defence  of  Paris,"  came  with  General  Maunoury  to 
British  headquarters  at  Melun.^  Sir  John  French  was 
absent,  as  we  have  seen,  visiting  the  I.  Corps,  about  whose 
position  he  was  alarmed,  but  to  his  Chief  of  the  General 
Staff,  Lieut. -General  Murray,  General  Gailieni  pointed  out 
that  advantage  ought  to  be  taken  at  once  of  the  oppor- 
tunity the  German  First  Army  had  given  by  offering  its 
right  flank.  He  added  that  he  had  ordered  the  Army  of 
Paris,  as  he  called  his  combined  forces  of  the  Sixth  Army 
and  Paris  garrison,  to  move  eastwards  that  afternoon,  and 
that  he  proposed,  with  the  concurrence  of  General  Joffre 
whom  he  had  informed,  to  attack  the  German  IV.  Reserve 
Corps,  which  was  covering  the  movement  of  the  First 
Army.  This  corps  had  been  reported  that  morning  march- 
ing in  two  columns  towards  Trilport  and  Lizy  sur  Ourcq. 
Gailieni  suggested  that  the  British  Army  should  cease  to 
Sketch  retreat,  and  take  the  offensive  next  day  in  co-operation 
^2a.  with  his  forces.  In  the  absence  of  the  British  Commander- 
^^  ■  in-Chief,  nothing  could  be  decided,  but  it  was  settled  pro- 
visionally that  on  the  5th  the  B.E.F.  should  change  front 
so  as  to  occupy  a  general  line  behind  the  Grand  Morin 
from  Coulommiers  westwards  (actually  Faremoutiers — 
Tigeaux — Chanteloup),  "  so  as  to  leave  the  Sixth  Army  the 
"  space  which  was  necessary  for  it."  ^  After  waiting  three 
hours  for  Sir  John  French,  but  all  in  vain,  at  5  p.m.  General 
Gailieni  departed.  Whilst  this  interview  between  General 
Gailieni  and  Lieut. -General  Murray  with  regard  to  co- 
operation was  taking  place  at  G.H.Q.,  another  was  in 
progress  at  Fifth  Army  headquarters  between  other  French 
and  British  representatives.  On  the  morning  of  the  4th 
General  Franchet  d'Esperey  had  expressed  a  wish  to  meet 
Sir  John  French,  and  it  had  eventually  been  arranged,  as 
the  Commander-in-Chief  wished  to  go  to  the  I.  Corps,  that 
the  Sub-Chief  of  the  General  Staff,  Major-General  Wilson, 

of  the  IX.  and  XI.  Corps,  52nd  and  60th  Reserve  Divisions  and  9th  Cavalry 
Division  from  the  left  of  the  Fourth  Army,  and  the  42nd  Division  from  the 
Third  Army.  Its  formation  merely  reduced  the  size  of  the  Fourth  Army, 
and  put  the  Fourth  and  Ninth  Armies  where  the  Fourth  had  been. 

^  See  "  Memoires  du  General  Gailieni.  Defense  de  Paris,"  p.  121,  for 
an  account  of  this  visit.  For  the  genesis  of  the  orders  for  the  Battle  of 
the  Marne,  see  Note  II.  at  end  of  Chapter. 

2  F.O.A.,  i.  (ii.)  p.  789. 


1914. 


THE  PROJECTED  OFFENSIVE  279 

with  the  head  of  the  IntelHgence  Section,  Colonel  Mac-  4  Sept. 
donogh,  should  be  at  Fifth  Army  headquarters  at  Bray  sur 
Seine  at  3  p.m.  On  arrival  there  these  officers  found  that 
General  Franchet  d'Esperey  had  a  quarter  of  an  hour  earlier 
received  a  telegram  from  General  Joffre  to  the  effect  ^  that 
it  might  be  of  advantage  to  deliver  battle  next  day  or  the 
day  after  with  the  Fifth  Army,  the  B.E.F  and  the  mobile 
forces  of  Paris,  and  enquiring  whether  the  Fifth  Army  was 
in  a  fit  state  to  fight.  After  comparing  information  as  to 
the  movements  of  the  enemy,  and  discussing  the  general 
situation  as  far  as  they  knew  it,  General  Franchet  d'Esperey, 
after  agreement  with  Major-General  Wilson,  despatched  the 
following  reply  to  General  Joffre  : 

"  I.  The  battle  cannot  take  place  until  the  day  after  to- 
"  morrow  6th  (sixth)  September. 

"  II.  To-morrow,  5th  Sept.  the  V.  (Fifth)  Army  will  con- 
"  tinue  its  retrograde  movement  to  the  line  Sezanne — Provins 
"  [that  is  facing  north-west,  with  a  view  to  guarding  the  left 
"  flank  of  the  French  main  Army  rather  than  to  an  offensive]. 

"  The  British  Army  will  make  a  change  of  direction,  so  as 
"  to  face  east  on  the  line  Coulommiers  and  southward — Changis 
"  [6  miles  east  of  Meaux]  provided  that  its  left  flank  is  supported 
"  bv  the  Sixth  Armv,  which  should  advance  to  the  line  of  the 
"  Ourcq  to  the  north  of  Lizy  sur  Ourcq  [8  miles  north-east  of 
"  Meaux]  to-morrow  5th  (fifth)  September. 

"  III.  On  the  6th  (sixth)  the  general  direction  of  the  British 
"  offensive  should  be  Montmirail ;  that  of  the  Sixth  Army 
"  should  be  Chateau  Thierry ;  that  of  the  V.  (Fifth)  Army 
"  should  be  Montmirail." 

Thus  it  was  suggested  that  the  Fifth  Army  should 
advance  northwards,  and  the  B.E.F.  and  Sixth  Army  east- 
wards. 

To  this  message,  which  was  timed  4  p.m.,  General 
Franchet  d'Esperey  added  in  his  own  handwriting  : 

"  The  conditions  for  the  success  of  the  operation  are  : 

"  1.  The  close  and  absolute  co-operation  of  the  Sixth  Army, 
"  which  must  debouch  on  the  left  bank  of  the  Ourcq  to  the 
"  north-east  of  Meaux  on  the  morning  of  the  6th. 

"  It  must  be  up  to  the  Ourcq  to-morrow  the  5th  September. 

"  If  not  the  British  won't  march. 

"  2.  My  Army  can  fight  on  the  6th,  but  is  not  in  a  brilliant 
"  state,  the  three  Reserve  divisions  cannot  be  counted  on. 

"  In  addition,  it  would  be  as  well  that  the  Detachment 

^  See  Note  II.  at  end  of  Chapter. 


280  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

"  Foch  should  take  an  energetic  part  in  the  action,  direction 
"  Montmort  [11  miles  south-west  of  Epernay]." 

With  a  note  of  these  messages,  Major-General  Wilson 
and  Colonel  Macdonogh  returned  to  G.H.Q. 

General  Joffre  had  written  to  Sir  John  French  earlier 
in  the  day  confirming  his  intention  to  adhere  to  the  plan  of 
retirement  already  communicated  to  him.^     He  added  : 

"  In  case  the  German  Armies  should  continue  the  movement 
"  south-south-east,  thus  moving  away  from  the  Seine  and  Paris, 
"  perhaps  you  will  consider,  as  I  do,  that  your  action  will  be 
"  most  effective  on  the  right  bank  of  that  river  between  Marne 
"  and  Seine. 

"  Your  left  resting  on  the  Marne,  supported  by  the  en- 
"  trenched  camp  of  Paris,  will  be  covered  by  the  mobile  garrison 
"  of  the  capital,  which  will  attack  eastwards  on  the  left  bank 
"  of  the  Marne." 

On  his  return  from  visiting  General  Haig,  the  British 
Commander-in-Chief,  after  reading  this  letter,  found  that 
his  Chief  and  Sub-Chief  of  the  General  Staff  had  come  to 
two  entirely  different  arrangements  with  the  Governor  of 
Paris  and  the  Commander  of  the  French  Fifth  Army :  one 
that  the  British  should  be  drawn  up  behind  the  Grand  Morin, 
facing  more  or  less  northward,  and  the  other  that  it  should 
be  north  of  the  Grand  Morin,  facing  east.  General  Gallieni's 
communication  appeared  to  be  authorized  by  General 
Joffre,  and  to  be  in  agreement  with  the  latter's  last  letter, 
whilst  Franchet  d'Esperey's  plan  might  land  the  B.E.F., 
with  its  left  completely  exposed,  in  the  midst  of  Kluck's 
Army.^  The  Field-Marshal  was  much  troubled  by  what 
appeared  to  him  to  be  constant  changes  of  plan  ;  but  there 
seemed  no  doubt  that  the  Generalissimo  wished  the  B.E.F. 
to  be  withdrawn  further  to  make  room  for  the  Ariny  of 
Paris  south  of  the  Marne,^  and  in  view  of  the  gap  which 
existed  between  the  B.E.F.  and  the  Fifth  Army,  and 
"  because  the  Germans  were  exercising  some  pressure  on 
"  Haig  on  this  night  [4th  Sept.],"*  Sir  John  French  decided 
to  retire  "  a  few  miles  further  south." 

At  6.35  P.M.,  therefore,  orders  ^  were  issued  from  British 

^  See  Appendix  26  for  the  original  French. 

*  Tlie  German  //.  Corps  on  the  5th  exactly  covered  the  ground 
Coulommiers — Changis  which  Generals  Franchet  d'Espferey  and  Wilson 
had  agreed  should  be  the  starting  line  of  the  B.E.F. 

3  See  Sir  John  French's  letter  to  Earl  Kitchener.     Appendix  27. 

*  Lord  French's  "  1914,"  p.  109. 
^  Appendix  28. 


SKETCH    12 


Ob      -i 

3 


I 


I 


LAST  DAY  OF  THE  RETREAT  281 

G.H.Q.  at  Melun,  for  the  Army  to  move  south-west  on  the  5  Sept. 
5th,  pivoting  on  its  left,  so  that  its  rear  guards  would  reach,  i^i"** 
roughly  a  line  drawn  east  and  west  through  Tournan.  The 
times  of  starting  were  left  to  the  corps  commanders.  The 
Cavalry  Division  was  further  warned  to  be  ready  to  move 
from  the  western  to  the  eastern  flank  of  the  Army  early 
on  the  6th,  A  message  informing  General  Gallieni  of  the 
movements  ordered  was  sent  through  the  French  Mission 
at  British  headquarters. 

Accordingly  at  3  a.m.  on  the  5th,  the  I.  Corps  was  Map  4. 
again  on  the  march  southwards  with  the  3rd  Cavalry 
Brigade  as  rear  guard  and  the  5th  as  eastern  flank  guard. 
The  latter  had  a  skirmish  at  Chailly  early  in  the  morning, 
but  otherwise  the  march  was  uneventful,  and  was  indeed 
compared  by  the  3rd  Cavalry  Brigade  to  a  march  in  peace 
time.  The  fighting  troops  of  the  III.  Corps  started  at 
4  A.M.,  but  the  II.  Corps  moved  off  several  hours  earlier, 
at  10  P.M.,  in  order  to  avoid  the  heat  of  the  day.  Both 
corps  were  unmolested.  During  the  5th,  definite  orders 
for  the  Cavalry  Division  to  move  to  the  right  flank  were 
issued,  and  in  the  course  of  the  afternoon  it  started  east- 
wards across  the  rear  of  the  Army. 

Thus  by  nightfall,  or  a  little  later,  the  British  force  had  Sketch  9. 
reached  its  halting-places  south-south-east  of  Paris,  and  ^^^P  24. 
faced  somewhat  east  of  north  :  the  I.  Corps  in  and  west  of 
Rozoy,  the  Cavalry  Division  to  its  right  rear  in  Mormant 
and  the  villages  north  of  it,  the  II.  Corps  on  the  left  of  the 
I.,  in  and  east  of  Tournan,  and  the  III.  Corps  on  the  left 
of  the  II.,  from  Ozoir  la  Ferriere  southwards  to  Brie  Comte 
Robert,  touching  the  defences  of  Paris. 

The  air  reports  showed  during  the  day  the  advance  of 
the  German  First  Army  across  the  Grand  Morin,  and  at 
night  the  bivouacs  of  large  forces  south  of  that  river  ;  two  or 
three  corps  (the  ///.,  //.  Cavalry  and  IV.)  were  between 
the  Grand  Morin  and  the  Aubetin,  and  another  corps  (//.) 
between  them  and  Crecy.  South  of  a  line  through  Beton 
Bezoches  and  west  of  a  meridian  through  Crecy  there  were 
reported  to  be  no  Germans  ;  but  the  G.H.Q.  situation 
tracing  for  the  5th  September  has  "  fighting  at  2.45  p.m." 
marked  on  it  in  a  circle  around  St.  Soupplets,  so  the  collision 
of  Maunoury's  Army  with  the  German  IV.  Reserve  Corps 
was  known.  The  left  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  was  during 
the  afternoon  reported  to  be  around  Provins,  that  is  15 
miles  to  the  right  rear  of  the  B.E.F. 

General  Franchet  d'Esperey,  before  the  conference  at 


282  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

his  headquarters  on  the  4th,  had  issued  orders  for  the  re- 
tirement to  the  Seine  of  the  French  Fifth  Army  on  the  5th 
and  6th  "  as  quickly  as  possible  and  with  the  least  possible 
"  losses  "  ;  strong  echelons  of  artillery  were  to  be  used  in 
successive  positions  and  the  enemy  fought  by  guns  without 
being  given  a  chance  of  holding  on  to  the  infantry.  No 
modification  was  made  in  these  orders  in  consequence  of 
the  question  asked  by  General  Joffre,  as  to  when  the  Fifth 
Army  could  fight  ;  so  the  XVIII.  Corps  and  Reserve 
divisions  marched  off  at  midnight  of  the  4th/5th,  and  the 
other  formations  of  the  Fifth  Army  at  1  a.m.^  Thus  during 
the  early  hours  of  the  5th  both  Franchet  d'Esperey  and  Sir 
John  French  wheeled  their  forces  back  as  if  opening  the 
two  halves  of  a  double  door,  increasing  the  gap  between 
them,  and  presenting  an  entry  into  the  Allied  line  to  the 
enemy. 

Meanwhile,  during  the  5th  September,  north-east  of  the 
capital,  General  Maunoury's  Sixth  Army  had  by  General 
Gallieni's  orders  advanced  north  of  the  Marne  towards  the 
Ourcq,  and  in  the  afternoon  had  come  into  contact  with 
the  German  IV.  Reserve  Corps  between  Meaux  and  St. 
Soupplets.  This  Army  was  steadily  increasing  in  numbers 
as  divisions  reached  it  from  the  east.^  On  the  right  of  the 
British,  and  slightly  to  the  south  of  them.  General  Con- 
neau's  cavalry  corps  (4th,  8th  and  10th  Cavalry  Divisions) 
was  near  Provins,  on  the  extreme  left  of  the  Fifth  Army, 
which  had  continued  to  retire  during  the  5th,  and  was  now 
extended  north-eastwards  from  Provins  to  Sezanne.  Thus 
the  gap  in  the  Allied  line  on  this  side  was  some  fifteen  miles, 
with  four  French  and  British  cavalry  divisions  at  hand  to 
fill  it. 

Opposite  the  French  Fifth  Army  and  the  right  of  the 
B.E.F.,  Kluck's  Army  had  continued  its  south-eastward 
movement.  As  aeroplane  reconnaissance  clearly  showed, 
the  whole  of  it  (except  the  IV.  Reserve  Corps  and  4th 
Cavalry  Division,  which  were  observing  Paris)  had  passed 
the  lines  of  the  Ourcq  and  the  Marne  and  had  wheeled  to 

1  F.O.A,,  i.  (ii.)  pp.  671-3,  and  Annexe  No.  2394. 

2  It  consisted  on  the  5th  September  of  the  VII.  Corps  (14th  and  63rd 
Reserve  Divisions),  45tli  Division,  55th  and  56th  Reserve  Divisions,  the 
Moroccan  Brigade,  and  Gillet's  cavalry  brigade — some  70,000  men,  with 
Sordet's  cavalry  corps  attached.  Behind  it  were  a  group  of  Territorial 
brigades  under  General  Mercier-Milon,  Ebener's  Group  of  Reserve  divisions 
(61st  and  62nd),  and  the  actual  garrison  of  Paris — four  divisions  and  a 
brigade  of  Territorial  troops,  with  a  brigade  of  Fusiliers  Marins  sent  for 
police  duties.  The  IV.  Corps  was  just  arriving,  so  General  Gallieni  reckoned 
he  had  about  150,000  men  available  for  action  as  the  Army  of  Paris. 


LAST  DAY  OF  THE  RETREAT  283 

the  south,  its  front  stretching  along  the  Hne  of  the  Grand  5  Sept. 
Morin,  which  its  advanced  troops  had  crossed,  from  ^^^'*- 
Estcrnay  (near  Sezanne)  to  Crecy  (south  of  Meaux).  On 
Kluck's  left,  the  Second  Army  was  a  day's  march  behind 
him,  its  right  slightly  overlapped  by  the  IX.  Corps,  so  that 
for  a  time  there  was  an  impression  that  he  had  been  re- 
inforced. The  moment  for  which  General  Joffre  had  waited 
was  come  at  last.  Kluck,  in  his  headlong  rush  eastwards, 
had,  it  appeared,  ignored  not  only  the  fortress  of  Paris,  but 
the  Sixth  Army  which,  with  the  British,  was  now  in  position, 
as  a  glance  at  the  map  will  show,  to  fall  in  strength  upon 
his  right  flank  and  rear. 

Similarly,  further  east,  parts  of  the  German  Fifth  Army 
and  the  Fourth  Army  had  swept  past  the  western  side  of 
Verdun,  with  which  fortress  General  Sarrail's  Third  Army, 
facing  almost  due  west,  was  still  in  touch.  Thus,  whilst  the 
German  Sixth  and  Seventh  Armies  were  held  up  by  the 
eastern  fortresses,  the  Fifth,  Fourth,  Third,  Second  and 
First  Armies  had  penetrated  into  a  vast  bag  or  "  pocket  " 
between  the  fortresses  of  Verdun  and  Paris,  the  sides  of 
which  were  held  by  unbeaten  troops,  ready  to  turn  on  the 
enemy  directly  the  command  should  come  to  do  so.  Credit 
has  been  claimed  for  General  Gallieni  that  he  first  dis- 
covered the  eastward  march  of  Kluck  and  brought  its 
significance  to  the  notice  of  General  Joffre,  and  that  he 
immediately  took  appropriate  action  with  the  troops  under 
his  command,  and  prevailed  upon  the  Commander-in-Chief 
to  change  his  plan  for  retiring  behind  the  Seine.  Be  this 
as  it  may,  the  decision  to  resume  the  offensive  rested  with 
General  Joffre. 

The  retreat  of  the  B.E.F.  had  continued,  with  only  one 
halt,  for  thirteen  days  over  a  distance,  as  the  crow  flies,  of 
one  hundred  and  thirty-six  miles,  or,  as  the  men  marched, 
at  least  two  hundred  miles,  and  that  after  two  davs'  strenu- 
ous  marching  in  advance  to  the  Mons  canal.  The  mere 
statement  of  the  distance  gives  no  measure  of  the  demands 
made  upon  the  physical  and  moral  endurance  of  the  men, 
and  but  little  idea  of  the  stoutness  with  which  they  had 
responded  to  these  demands.  The  misery  that  all  ranks 
suffered  is  well  summed  up  in  the  phrase  of  an  officer  :  "  I 
"  would  never  have  believed  that  men  could  be  so  tired 
"  and  so  hungry  and  yet  live."  An  artillery  officer  whose 
brigade  marched  and  fought  throughout  the  retreat  with 
the  same  infantry  brigade  has  noted  in  his  diary  that,  on 
the  average,  mounted  men  had  three  hours',  and  infantry 


284  LAST  STAGES  OF  THE  RETREAT 

four  hours'  rest  per  day.  The  late  General  Sir  Stanley 
Maude,  who  was  on  the  IH.  Corps  Staff,  has  put  it  on  record 
that  he  did  not  average  three  hours'  sleep  out  of  the  twenty- 
four  ;  1  officers  of  the  lower  staffs  had  less.  But  all  these 
trials  were  now  behind  them  :  the  Retreat  from  Mons  was 
over. 

There  have  been  three  other  notable  retreats  in  the 
history  of  the  British  Army.  All  three,  that  of  Sir  John 
Moore  to  Corunna  in  the  winter  of  1808-9,  of  Sir  Arthur 
Wellesley  after  the  battle  of  Talavera  in  1809,  and  again 
from  Burgos  to  Ciudad  Rodrigo  in  1812,  were  marred 
by  serious  lack  of  discipline,  though  the  first  was  re- 
deemed by  its  results  and  the  success  of  the